In late 2019, Mineworx’s took the decision to develop its own laboratory capability which would compliment its fabrication expertise working on the Joint Venture E-Waste facility and allow for company growth.
Phase 1: Assembling the Team
In January of 2020 space for the laboratory was secured and the operating equipment purchased and Fabricio Maia was hired as the Director of Research and Development (R&D) to facilitate the start-up of the laboratory program. Maia is a Mineral Processing Engineer with a P.Eng designation who also has a Masters Degree in Applied Science from the University of British Columbia and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA).
In addition to the Director the research team includes a graduate from the BC Institute of Technology with a specialization in Process Engineering who also has a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering from Lakehead University. Another member of the team has a Masters in Analytical Chemistry from Youngstown State University Today the R&D team has five full time staff who contribute a deep knowledge of chemical engineering, process engineering and analytical chemistry.
The goal of the team is to convert the latest research concepts from a purely theorical basis into the practical application phase.
Phase 2: Preliminary Research into PGM Recoveries
The preliminary focus of research was on recovery of Platinum and Palladium from automotive catalytic converters. As part of this research the Company began working with Organic Aqua Regia (OAR). OAR is an umbrella term for a group of organic based compounds. These compounds generally do not require the addition of water and are considered non-toxic. Two common examples from this umbrella are dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and thionyl chloride (SOCl2) but there are also several others.
OAR is capable of replacing conventional aqua regia, cyanide and other aggressive chemical extraction methods for the recovery of noble metals. Noble metals are a group of metals that cluster around the platinum group metals (PGM) and includes ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, platinum, and gold.
OAR compounds have the same application as the conventional chemicals but with less hazardous operational risks. Organic chemistry offers precise controls over chemical reactivity and the ability to tailor organic reactions enables higher levels of selectiveness in the dissolution of noble metals. The organic mixtures contain an electron acceptor and a donor, which capture noble metals from the solids dissolved. In addition, the OAR solutions are eco-friendly and recyclable.
Phase 3: Recovering Gold
The Mineworx development group in Spain provided samples from a gold deposit in Northern Spain, on which the laboratory team began testing the use of OAR in the recovery process. The preliminary results were encouraging as 98.3% of the head grade was recovered. This project is a brownfield site currently not in production as the regulatory hurdles do not allow for an economic operation. The Company believes that with further refinement OAR could be utilized to return this project to an operational status.
There are multiple opportunities in Spain and in most other mining jurisdictions globally where environmental regulations are making it impossible to proceed with projects. The largest hurdle is the use of cyanide, which is becoming more and more restricted for use in both new and brownfield projects. The ability to process in an environmentally friendly manner will open the door to significant future opportunities.
The research team is currently focused on searching for enhancements to the chemical composition of solutions that the company can utilize while focusing on increasing the recovery and recyclability characteristics of the current processes being used. The work being done, and the results being achieved with OAR over the last few years are more than encouraging and will lay the groundwork for an exciting new path of development for Mineworx’s precious metal recovery business.
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