CSIRO has produced Australia’s first gold using a novel nontoxic chemical process that can provide an alternative to cyanide and mercury to extract the precious metal. The trial was conducted with gold miner Eco Minerals Research at a demonstration plant in Menzies, Western Australia.
Cyanide is most commonly used in global gold production, but the toxicity of the chemical is leading to ever more-stringent regulations. And several regional agencies in the USA, South America and Europe have banned the use of cyanide for gold extraction.
The new CSIRO process uses nontoxic thiosulphate in place of cyanide, with a simple process flowsheet that means the costs of setting up a process plant are dramatically reduced. A typical cyanide-based processing plant costs around $30 million, whereas the new technology has a lower capital investment costing as little as $2-2.5 million to build.
It could be a game-changer for Eco Minerals Research, which has its sights set on becoming the first Australian producer to go cyanide-free.
“The first gold is a major milestone in our progress towards becoming one of the world’s first green gold producers,” says Eco Minerals Research Managing Director Paul Hanna.
“In close collaboration with CSIRO we’ve gone through the design, engineering and fabrication stages and set up a processing facility in Menzies, delivering the first gold pour in just 10 months, which is a fantastic achievement.”