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CSIRO develops MRI-based ore-sorting analyzer to cut energy and water use in copper mining

A new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based ore-sorting analyzer developed by Australia’s CSIRO can help copper miners can slash their energy and water use for every tonne of the metal produced.

The analyzer rapidly identifies ore grade so that large volumes of waste rock (gangue) can be rejected before it enters the plant, significantly reducing the amount of energy and water needed for processing.

The analyser is available to the international copper market through NextOre, a new company created by RFC Ambrian, Advisian Digital and CSIRO.

By illuminating batches of ore with short pulses of radio waves, magnetic resonance penetrates through copper ores—much like medical MRI “sees into” human bodies rapidly and accurately to detect ore grade. It has an advantage over other ore sorting analyzers that can often only detect mineral particles on the surface of ore, producing less reliable results.

While the productivity benefits vary depending on the characteristics of the orebody, the analyser has the potential to more than double average ore grades once sorted.

It could represent as much as a 20% reduction in processing costs in some copper mines.

In its first year, NextOre will focus its efforts on engaging the South American and Canadian market.

In addition to copper, the magnetic resonance analyser can be applied to gold and iron-bearing ores.

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