Our reliance on water in mineral processing has a significant environmental impact. Industry uses water for both transport and refinement, which results in tailings ponds. The development and commercialization of new technologies resulting in more efficient use of energy and water, along with improved separation and recovery, will reduce the environmental impact of mine waste disposal.
Research under this theme focuses on the science essential to minerals processing and beneficiation of metals, thermal and metallurgical coals and water-based oil sands extraction. It includes: ultra-fine grinding and mineral liberation; solution and colloidal chemistry studies in mineral processing, including reagent-mineral (coal and bitumen) interactions, froth phase study, and ultraclean fine coal slurry fuels; ultra-fine mineral particle flotation technologies; and water management in mineral processing and water-based oil sands extraction. The expected outcomes of this research theme are:
- World class research infrastructure for research in interfacial science, with specific tools and application protocols for natural resource processing and utilization;
- Energy efficient ultra-fine grinding technologies based on stirred ball milling capable of grinding down to nanometer particle size. Tailored grinding aids for individual mineral and ore systems that modify slurry rheology and assist in ultra-fine particle dispersion during grinding;
- Specific collectors and modifiers for efficient flotation separation of base metal sulphide ores (such as lead-zinc, copper-lead-zinc and copper-nickel) in ultra-fine particle size range. Specific chemical reagents for bitumen extraction from oil sands, and coal cleaning and coal-water slurry of Alberta low rank coals for emerging clean coal technologies, such as Shell-type gasifiers;
- Integrated ultra-fine particle flotation separation technologies in which the selective enlargement of hydrophobic ultra-fine particles and the selective enlargement of hydrophilic ultra-fine particles are integrated, either in a single stage or in separate stages. Tailored processes for different types of ores including base metal sulfides, oil sands and coal;
- Methodology and platform for process water analysis to address the quality of process recycle water specific to natural resource processing industry;
- Robust process options to tolerate variability of ores and recycle process water quality.
- New dewatering aids for minerals, coal and oil sands. Novel dewatering aids will significantly increase the water removal rates from mineral and coal products as well as from mineral, coal and oil sands processing tailings aiming at tailings pond free operation to support water-based oil sands extraction.