Australia is leading the charge towards greener and safer gold production with an environmentally-superior alternative gold recovery process technology, dispensing with toxic cyanide and mercury currently used in most gold production processes worldwide.

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Clean Mining & CSIRO demonstration plant, Western Australia

The new technology was developed over more than a decade by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, and trialled in Australia in 2018 Clean Mining’s parent company – Eco Minerals Research Limited. This trial proved the thiosulphate solution could extract gold from ore at an industrial scale.

Following this success, the Australian company negotiated exclusive rights to sell and distribute new cyanide-free gold processing technology worldwide, with CSIRO transferring its ‘Going for Gold’ process technology.

CSIRO Research Program Leader, Dr Chris Vernon, believes the technology not only overcomes a significant environmental hazard, it also opens the door for Australian and international gold miners and end users to capitalise on demand for sustainable processes and products.

“Cyanide is used in about 75 per cent of global gold production, and while the industry works to manage the associated risks, there have been recent toxic spills overseas that have caused great concern to communities,” Dr Vernon said.

“Developing an alternative process, which eliminates hazardous chemicals while maximising gold recovery, meets industry and consumer demands for more sustainably-produced gold.”

The CSIRO-developed ‘Going for Gold’ process replaces cyanide with a reagent, known as thiosulphate, creating a relatively cost-effective, non-toxic and safe alternative to conventional cyanide-based gold recovery process.

Currently, around 75 per cent of gold extracted from ore is processed using the hazardous chemicals of cyanide or mercury, which are toxic to humans and the environment. These chemicals are often contained in large storage tanks and, once used, expelled into large tailing dams that can potentially leach into the local surrounds or, worse, burst as we’ve seen in recent years in Brazil and Canada.

Clean Mining will deliver the new technology solution to a global market of gold producers, offering technology products and licences as well as turn-key processing plant options, plus equipment and product support throughout the mine life.

Clean Mining Managing Director, Jeff McCulloch, says the technology is suitable for new greenfields mines, locations where cyanide cannot be used or is banned, as well as in existing mines looking to upgrade and transition to the new technology.

“This technology provides gold miners with an opportunity to proactively evolve their environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards,” Mr McCullloch said.

“This new technology literally delivers a new gold standard for the global gold industry.

“The technology is scalable and cost effective, and the process has been tested and proven at an industrial-scale to deliver commercially viable results.”

“Eliminating cyanide and the associated tailing dams from the gold recovery process is a game-changer for the sector and, importantly, for the communities where gold miners operate,” Mr McCulloch added.

Clean Mining are currently in negotiations with ICA Mining Services Pty Ltd in the Northern Territory of Australia to commission the first commercial plant to process gold using this technology, and with Nu-Fortune Gold to commission a plant in the Goldfields of Western Australia.

“We have already had interest from miners keen to unlock previously uneconomic or stranded deposits, as the solution does not require financial investment in a large-scale plant and it also mitigates hazardous chemical risks,” said Mr McCulloch.

“Our observation is that consumers are demanding ethically produced gold that minimises impact to the environment, is free from human harm, exploitation and conflict, and can be tracked from mine to refiner to consumer.”

*Article published in the July-September 2019 issue of The Asia Miner

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