CanMicro is a project that was born when someone said, “Never say never!”
At a project development workshop in 2018 a participant asked why we are still bothering to try and work with microwaves. “We’ve been trying for 30 years and “they’re never going to work”, they said. A group of people at that workshop, including Erin Bobicki, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, said “Why not?”.
That CMIC workshop along with the pending NRCan Crush It! Challenge was the catalyst for Erin Bobicki to assemble a multi-disciplinary team of experts, including academics, applied researchers, technology providers and mining companies to demonstrate that high intensity, multi-mode microwave energy can be applied to ores, first for fracturing the rock and then for sorting.
The CanMicro team is made of the following experts and companies:
- CMIC – Project Administrator
- Dr. Erin Bobicki – Technical Lead
- Sepro Mineral Systems – Project Participants
- Glencore Canada – Project Participants
- COREM – Project Participants
- Queens University – Subject Matter Experts
CanMicro is the only technology to combine microwave-assisted comminution and sorting. The treatment selectively heats value minerals, resulting in micro-fractures along grain boundaries that help reduce ore competency and increase mineral liberation after grinding. It also generates a thermal signature that can be used to sort ore particles so that only those containing value minerals are subjected to fine grinding. Aside from the potential energy savings, which the team believe could be up to 70 per cent, this has significant environmental implications for tailings.
By pre-fracturing ores, the technology has the potential to achieve the following, significant benefits:
- Reduced ore competency
- Increased product size
- Removal of waste before grinding
There are also likely to be considerable benefits for downstream processing, in flotation, gravity recovery and leaching.<
“Conventional grinding is inefficient and energy intensive. CanMicro gives us the ability to direct energy to where breakage is required and to sort waste from value minerals.”
The CanMicro project is one of six finalists in Impact Canada’s Crush It! Challenge, along with MonoRoll, another CMIC project. Launched in October 2018, Crush It! challenged Canadian innovators to deliver game-changing solutions for cleaner, more efficient comminution.
The team is confident that the CanMicro project is a strong contender for the $5 million prize, given the promising results in grindability, sortability and energy savings. The prize money would be used to further the project, including installing a microwave and automatic sorter in a mining operation.
The CanMicro team is eager to welcome additional participants who are motivated to advance the technology by either in-kind or financial contributions.
Stay tuned to the CanMicro project page and the ReThink Mining blog for updates on this exciting project.