Preconcentration and agglomeration to enhance heap leaching of nickel laterite Collaboration
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Minerals Down Under Flagship Director Peter Lilly has described the Australian nickel sector as a ‘”jewel in the nation’s crown. Demand for nickel has increased by about 5 to 6% per year over the past decade, and despite fluctuating prices, the future outlook is positive,” he said. “Although our reserves of high-grade nickel are depleting, Australia has large reserves of nickel laterite deposits that will play an important role in meeting future demand. The key to unlocking the value from these deposits is developing economic and environmentally sustainable processing methods.”The universities of South Australia (through the Ian Wark Research Institute), Queensland, Melbourne and British Columbia are collaborating with CSIRO in this work on nickel laterites. The Ian Wark Institute is the lead cluster party and Laureate Professor John Ralston, Director of the Institute, is the Cluster Leader.The cluster was officially launched in Perth in October by Poseidon Nickel Chief Executive, David Singleton. He described the cluster as “bringing together some of the best and brightest minds in these research fields in our industry.”Associate Professor Jonas Addai-Mensah from the Ian Wark Research Institute said “the cluster will undertake basic and applied research to fill the knowledge gaps in the science and technology underpinning preconcentration and agglomeration of nickel laterites.”Significant advances have been made in mineralogical characterisation of nickel laterite ore samples via QEMSCAN analysis.Information obtained during a literature review around stirred milling of nickel laterite shows opportunities for preferential size reduction of nickel bearing portions in lateritic ores.New research has demonstrated that it is possible to increase the flotation recovery of nickel oxide from 12% to 74%.Successful agglomeration of model kaolinite, hematite and quartz minerals has been achieved with good reproducibility.