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  'Working together to promote premier, multi-disciplinary research and development in the area of minerals beneficiation'

New Initiatives and Evolving Research

New Initiatives and Evolving Research

The MtM research programme has been constantly evolving since its inception in 2007 as projects develop and new partnerships are formed, expanding opportunities and opening up previously unexplored research areas. Following the appointment of Professor Dee Bradshaw as the new SARChI Chair in Minerals Beneficiation and Director of MtM at the end of 2015, MtM’s research network and capacity has been expanded, providing the opportunity for creating a number of new research initiatives.

 

In line with the expanding initiatives in 2016, the research has been re-categorised and focused into the following five ‘higher level themes’:

  • mineral value chains

  • technical innovation

  • strategic minerals

  • licence-to-operate

  • value from waste

In all these themes, understanding and new knowledge is being developed that will provide decision making tools, although it is recognised that many of the projects span more than one theme. There are currently more than 20 research programmes and projects spanning these research themes either underway or in development. These include ARD mitigation, Circular Economy Engineering, Dry Processing, Dust, Urban Mining, Industrial Minerals, REEs, Geometallurgy, and incorporating sustainability risk through operationalising SDGs.

Mineral Value Chains Projects

PROJECTS

Edson Charikinya

Project Title : Integrated Modelling Framework
Supervisors: Prof Dee Bradshaw; Dr Megan Becker; A/Prof Jenny Broadhurst; Prof Aubrey Mainza

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Sithembiso Ntlhabane
MSc (commenced 2016)

Project Title: Developing an integrated mineralogical framework
Supervisors: Dr Megan Becker; Prof Dee Bradshaw; Dr Edson Charikiya

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Strategic Minerals Projects

Research to develop new and better processes for obtaining Rare Earth Elements is also a research focus of Professor Jochen Petersen, and a part of the theme ‘Strategic Minerals’. Cody Burcher-Jones’s (MSc Eng) development of an understanding of the processes governing the in-situ leaching of rare-earth elements from ion exchange clay deposits involves sophisticated mineral characterization, which is being undertaken by Dr Megan Becker’s CMR process mineralogy team.

Industrial minerals are known as ‘Cinderella’ minerals, often overlooked in favour of the more lucrative metal-bearing hard rock opportunities. However, owing to their importance in modern economies, there is significant potential in their beneficiation. In an undergraduate project in 2015 supported by a local limestone supply company, Corey Beavon evaluated the potential for increased beneficiation of limestone ores in South Africa, particularly for the manufacture of high value precipitated calcium carbonate. He has continued this work for his MPhil research project in 2016. Senzo Mgabhi’s (MSc Eng) is evaluating the potential of using limestone for ARD mitigation in a collaboration between CPU and HydroMet. This work forms part of new theme ‘Strategic Minerals’ and also relates to the ‘Licence-to-Operate’ theme.

Ongoing research of in-situ and heap-leach processes continues to evolve the older theme of low grade ores into the newer domain of ‘Strategic Minerals’ and the development of an integrated modelling framework. Buhle Manana’s (MSc Eng) electrochemical study of diffusion through pores in large particle leaching, and an aligned project by postdoctoral fellow Dr Rahul Ram, revolving around preparing particle ‘shells’ for such diffusion studies, feed into the development of a process model of heap and in-situ leach processes, which is being developed by Nicole Uys in her MSc Eng project All are working under the supervision of Professor Jochen Petersen with co-supervisors TK Rampai, Dr Megan Becker and Professor Dee Bradshaw. Eventually these projects will feed into the integrated modelling framework of ‘Mineral Value Chains’. Chiloane (MSc Eng) provided a basis for developing a framework for analysing the co-location of utility-scale solar power plants within metallurgical operations.

 

PROJECTS

Buhle Manana
MSc (commenced 2015)

 

Project Title: The influence of diffusion pathways on the solution potential in mineral leach systems
Supervisors: Prof Jochen Petersen; Dr Rahul Ram

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Cody Owen Burcher-Jones
MSc (commenced 2016)

Project Title: In-situ leaching of rare earth elements from ion-exchange clay deposits
Supervisors: Prof Jochen Petersen; Tokoloho Rampai

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Corey Beavon
MPhil in Sustainable Mineral Development (commenced 2016)

Project Title: Relationship between mining and the green economy in South Africa
Supervisors: Prof Dee Bradshaw; Prof Harro von Blottnitz

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Nicole Uys
MSc (commenced 2016)

Project Title: Modelling of in-situ leaching of rare earth elements
Supervisors: Prof Jochen Petersen; Prof Dee Bradshaw

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Senzo Mgabhi
MSc (commenced 2016)

Project Title: The kinetics of lime dissolution in acid mine drainage neutralization
Supervisors: Prof Jochen Petersen; Prof Alison Lewis

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Technical Innovation Projects

In 2015 an undergraduate project evaluating the potential of dry processing to reduce energy and water emissions was undertaken, which has led to an MSc project started by Gilbert Ncube in 2016 which evaluates the potential for removing clay material from high clay ores while dry, using high pressure grinding rolls followed by air separation. This work is conducted in collaboration with Professor Aubrey Mainza (CMR) and Hacettepe University, and is supported by ThyssenKrupp, where the test work is being undertaken. This project forms part of new theme ‘Technical Innovation’.

 

PROJECTS

Gilbert Ncube
MSc (commenced 2016)

Project Title: Dry processing innovation for improved performance
Supervisors: Dr Megan Becker; Prof Dee Bradshaw; Dr Edson Charinkiya

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Value from Waste Projects

The development of methods for the extraction of metals from e-waste, particularly printed circuit boards, using various hydrometallurgical and bio-hydrometallurgical methods, has been an ongoing research area in CeBER and more recently in MtM. Thandazile Moyo has been awarded an NRF post-doctoral fellowship to develop this further and Zaynab Sadan, in her MSc Eng project, is weighing up the value of extracting post-consumer waste, including the assessment of sustainability criteria. A proposal developed in collaboration MiLA and CeBER to use a techno-environmental and socio-economic framework for doing this has been submitted to the DST for funding. The potential to extend and develop this initiative into UCT’s Urban Mine by including social innovation and the formation of a social enterprise is being discussed with the Bertha Centre at the Graduate School of Business and the d-school of Design Thinking. Another aspect to urban mining is generating value in the form of fine chemicals from waste tyres, which is the topic of Alvira’s Mentoor’s PhD. Together with the development of tools and methodologies for (geological) mine waste, these projects form part of the continuing theme ‘Value from Waste’.

 

PROJECTS

Thandazile Moyo

Project Title: Urban Mining
Supervisors: Dr Divine Fuh (Department of Social Anthropology, UCT); A/Prof Jenny Broadhurst

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Zynab Sadan
MSc (commenced 2016)

Project Title: Development of a process flow sheet for selective metal recovery from waste printed circuit boards and its evaluation using a techno- environmental and socio-economic framework
Supervisors: Prof Jochen Petersen; Prof Dee Bradshaw; Thandazile Moyo

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Licence to Operate Projects

The ‘Licence-to-Operate’ theme includes both environmental and social licence to operate. Continuing projects that will be included in this theme are the ARD characterisation work by Alex Opitz (PhD) and Annah Moyo (MSc Eng), as well as the MPhil student projects under the previous theme of community engagement and the social and legislative licence to operate. This includes twelve students, and entails co-supervision by academics from Universities of British Columbia, Cambridge and Queensland, as well as from the School of Economics and the Department of Architecture and Planning at the University of Cape Town.

The concept of Green Mining and its development by MtM in 2016 has arisen from several sources. One was the challenge from the ‘green finance’ perspective coming from Louise Gardiner, director of KudosAfrica, for tools that investors can use to identify innovative and resilient companies. Adj/Prof Wynand van Dyk is the project manager of Kropz’s Elandsfontein Phosphate mine, located 12 km from Langebaan; where sustainability principles have been incorporated into the design and operation of this mine and processing facility located in an environmentally sensitive region. The processing facility is in the construction phase and the partnership with MtM has facilitated three visits with different groups of students, the most recent including five law students—which provoked interesting discussions. An undergraduate project in 2015 focused on shared value creation between communities and mining companies that highlighted the effects of mining on social capital.

Arising from the discussions and contribution to the document, ‘Mapping Mining to the Sustainable Development Goals: A Preliminary Atlas’, in April 2016, a programme was initiated by Adj/Professor Mike Solomon and Professor Dee Bradshaw entitled ‘Operationalising the Sustainable Development Goals for Mining in Emerging Economies’. This forms part of the ‘Licence-To-Operate’ theme, with the first goal being to assess the extent to which mining companies already contribute towards the SDG objectives, in both quantitative and qualitative terms. The programme will then identify ways in which the sector should adapt and improve, implementing new operating procedures or methods to more effectively embed the SDGs in governance, management systems, organisational culture and disclosure. More specifically, the objectives are to:

Create an awareness of the SDGs within the mining industry from corporate Chief Executive Officers though mine management down to operational personnel; Embed the principles in corporate and operating culture at all levels in mining companies; and Inculcate this culture into the future leaders of the industry by building the principles into every aspect of their engineering and business education through undergraduate and post-graduate course work and assignments.

 

PROJECTS

Alex Opitz
PhD (commenced 2015)

Project Title: The Development of an Integrated Approach for the Prediction of Acid Rock Drainage from Waste Rock
Supervisors: Prof Sue Harrison; Assoc. Prof Jenny Broadhurst; Dr Megan Becker

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Annah Moyo
MSc (commenced 2016

Project Title: Characterizing the environmental risk potential of South African coal processing waste
Supervisors: A/Prof Jenny Broadhurst; Prof Sue Harrison; Dr Juarez Amaral Filho

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Projects Under Development

A partnership to co-develop resilience and innovation for sustainability, which will involve trans-disciplinary research, education and training, and stakeholder and community engagement, is being developed with the sustainability manager for Anglo Gold Ashanti, Dr Brian Chicksen. Prof Dee Bradshaw is coordinating the engagement from UCT which includes the GSB, d-School and MiLA, in addition to MtM.

Attendance at an Australia Africa Universities Network (AAUN) workshop in December 2015, “Mining for a Healthier Community”, led by Dr Helen MacDonald from UCT, indicated that there are a number of inter-connected issues of relevance to mine dust. It was against this background that a multi-disciplinary “Mine Dust Working Group” was established under the auspices of MtM, comprising more than 20 specialists and academics in areas such as immunology, geology, nanoscience, health anthropology, chemical engineering, law, mineralogy, environmental management and control, and occupational health. The inaugural meeting of this group was held in June 2016, followed by a working meeting in July 2016. The primary purpose of these meetings was to develop awareness of current expertise, capabilities and activities; to highlight the key issues; to identify current gaps and deficiencies in terms of dealing with these issues; and to explore opportunities for developing trans-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder approaches and activities going forward. On the basis of these meetings, a framework for trans-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder research in the area of mine dust has been established. A preliminary project aimed at establishing a particle size classification system to support such a framework is being conducted by two 4th year chemical engineering students under the supervision of Dr Rahul Ram and Associate Professor Jenny Broadhurst. Three literature review papers are in preparation, covering aspects of legislation and policy, health anthropology, and the characterisation and management of mine dust. A preliminary meeting with the Wellcome Trust has indicated that the organisation would be keen to consider funding of a trans-disciplinary research thrust in this area.

It is in the arena of evolving research where a number of inter-disciplinary, trans-disciplinary and inter-institutional research themes are being pursued. The research carried out through the MPhil has been particularly instrumental in this. As stated, the growing understanding of the complexity of introducing principles of sustainable development into mining requires a more integrative research approach. Building on a number of seminal projects in the past, MtM aims to grow its research in depth and width. By reaching out to other experts at UCT, it has been possible to enhance existing research in topics like water, dust, waste, recycling and repurposing, amongst others.