Gekko Systems' Python modular plant is used to process ore underground.

DURING the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s, thousands of miners hoped to strike it rich by panning for nuggets in the streams around Ballarat. Today, Gekko Systems is reviving that legacy by using the same principles to cleanly and efficiently extract minerals on-site within underground mines.

Gekko's Python modular processing plant was first installed in 2008 at the Central Rand Gold Mine in South Africa. By processing the ore underground, only the valuable minerals – about 10% of the volume – have to be hauled to the surface.

Python's snake-like chain of components, each about the size of a Toyota Landcruiser, first crushes the ore and then uses gravity separation and flotation to remove the minerals. The process is fully automated and able to run on its own recycled water.

This not only saves cost, but brings huge environmental benefits through avoiding the need for chemicals, using relatively clean tailings for backfill and requiring much less power per tonne treated.

"By lowering the environmental cost and the overall life-of-mine costs, Python helps mines achieve the highest return-on-investment," says Gekko Systems' CEO and managing director Elizabeth Lewis-Gray.

Although Python was designed primarily for extracting gold and sulphides, its component technology has been used on other minerals such as copper, silver, tin, tantalum, garnet and diamonds.

This versatility and devotion to research and development has seen Gekko Systems expand from its beginnings in Ballarat to offices in South Africa, Chile and Canada, serving as bases for installations worldwide.

Gekko specializes in the design, development and distribution of innovative mineral processing equipment and systems. Gekko's world-leading technical and service teams complement its unique and proven technologies. The company seeks low cost, quality solutions to metallurgical problems. Improving environmental outcomes from mineral processing is a focus. Gekko comprises a multinational team of industry experts committed to successful installations.

Gekko Systems will be an exhibitor at IMARC, the International Mining and Resources Conference, in Melbourne from September 22 to 26 and will showcase its mining technology.