Metallurgical applications of microwave technology have been investigated for over 30 years; however, scale-up has remained a challenge. The project combines microwave-assisted sorting and comminution for maximum benefits with minimum energy input. Copper, nickel and gold ores will be exposed to high-power microwave radiation for short times at large particle sizes (up to 150 mm).
The treatment will selectively heat value minerals, resulting in micro-fracture along grain boundaries that will reduce ore competency and increase mineral liberation after grinding. It will also generate a thermal signature that can be used to sort ore particles so that only those that contain value minerals are subjected to fine grinding. We anticipate that comminution energy can be reduced by 24 to 72 per cent using the CanMicro technology, which will employ a high-powered (150 kW) multi-mode microwave system to enable scale-up to throughputs required by industry (>1000 tph). This contrasts with recent work out of the UK where the focus has been on mono-mode systems that have limited scale-up potential (150 tph) at North American industrial microwave frequencies.
Project outcomes will include a pilot-scale demonstration of the process, technoeconomic assessment of commercial-scale feasibility based on prototype performance, and an evaluation of the effect of the proposed technology on downstream processes.
Expected outcomes and benefits
The project will result in the establishment of a new disruptive technology whereby the proposed solution will utilize microwave technology to achieve a step-change reduction in the energy required for comminution by:
- Pre-fracturing ores thereby reducing the competency of ores and energy required for grinding
- Preferentially liberating valuable minerals thereby increasing the liberation size
- Rejecting waste rock through microwave-assisted thermal sorting thereby reducing the mass of material to be processed while maintaining throughput of valuable minerals
- CMIC – Project Administrator
- Dr. Erin Bobicki – Technical Lead
- Sepro Mineral Systems – Project Participants
- Glencore Canada – Project Participants
- COREM – Subject Matter Expert
- Queens University– Subject Matter Expert
- Kingston Process Metallurgy Inc. (KPM) – Subject Matter Expert
- Saskatechwan Research Council – Subject Matter Expert