The University of South Australia (UniSA) is working to reduce the cost of mineral processing using molten salts as part of a research and development (R&D) programme, based around the Oxley Potassium Project
The programme, undertaken by UniSA’s School of Engineering and Future Industries Institute, will develop a minerals processing circuit to leach, extract and purify metals from silicate minerals in a solely molten salt environment, without the need for subsequent aqueous processing. If it proves successful, the new method will significantly lower energy and water use and the associated costs, UniSA said this week.
“Currently, molten salts are being used commercially in the solar and nuclear industries at temperatures up to 600°C and while molten salts are used commercially at higher temperatures for batch style minerals roasting processes this project will develop novel technology for reaction, separation and purification processes in molten salts above 850°C,” UniSA Associate Research Professor, Frank Bruno, explained. This could be adopted in applications such as solar power plants, high-temperature thermal energy storage, molten salt reactors, glass optical property modification and refining for other minerals.
The project is financed through a collaborative research funding partnership between the UniSA, the South Australian and Western Australian governments and Centrex Metals Ltd. The latter, along with the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA) and the Mining Industry Participation Office of South Australia (MIPO), have contributed AUD 464,000 (USD 340,100/EUR 309,700) in external funding towards UniSA’s first two stages of the proposed three-stage R&D programme.