Scientists have developed a new technique of “keyhole surgery” to extract metals from the Earth – which could revolutionize the future of metal mining
A team of international researchers, including Dr. Rich Crane of the Mining School of Camborne, University of Exeter, has developed a new method for extracting metals, such as copper, from their ore body.
The research team provided evidence of a concept for applying an electric field to control the movement of low-permeability acid containing copper ore for selective dissolution and reduction of the metal in situ.
This is in contrast to the conventional approach to the extraction of such deposits, where the material must be physically excavated, which requires the removal of both the discovered liquids and any impurities in the ore (known as group material).
Researchers believe the new technology has the potential to transform the mining industry, as it has the ability to dissolve metals from a wide range of ore deposits that were previously considered inaccessible.
In addition, due to the non-invasive nature of mining, the research team hopes that the study will help make the industry more sustainable in the future.
This is urgently needed now to provide the many metals needed to supply green technologies, such as renewable energy infrastructure and electrified vehicles, while limiting any potential environmental damage associated with the extraction of such vital metals.
The study was published recently in Scientific progress.
Dr Rich Crane of Camborne Mining School, University of Exeter and co-author of the study, said: “This new approach, similar to ̵
The basic principle behind most modern mining techniques has not changed radically since their original concept, which marked the beginning of the Bronze Age: metals are recovered from the underground surface by physical excavation, ie. the construction of tunnels for access to the deposits or by the creation of mines with “open voice”.
This technique also requires large volumes of surface soil, open cargo and material that can contain millions of tons of material – and can also lead to habitat destruction.
In this new publication, experts from the University of Western Australia, the Organization for Scientific and Industrial Research of the British Community (CSIRO), the Technical University of Denmark and the University of Exeter demonstrate that a directed electric field can be used to dissolve and then recover copper. place of ore – avoiding any requirement for physical excavation of the material.
This new technology involves the construction (drilling) of electrodes directly into an ore body. An electric current is then applied, which can lead to the transport of electrically charged metal ions, such as copper, through the rock through a process called electromigration.
The research team has now provided evidence of the concept of this new technology on a laboratory scale, which has also been tested using computer modeling. They are confident that the idea will work outside the laboratory scale.
Protection needed for emerging extraction hotspots
Evelien Martens et al, Towards a more sustainable future of in situ leaching electrokinetic leaching, Scientific progress (2021). DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.abf9971
Provided by the University of Exeter
Quote: Scientists have developed a new technique of “key hole operation” to extract metals from the Earth (2021, May 4), extracted on May 5, 2021 from https://techxplore.com/news/2021-05- scientists-key-hole-surgery -technique-metals.html
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