Australia firm's breakthrough technology eliminates cyanide from gold mining

SINGAPORE - Clean Mining, an Australian tech firm, has launched an ore processing technology that replaces the use of toxic chemical cyanide in gold mining. The patented technology acquired by Clean Mining was developed by Australia's government research agency Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation over a period of 10 years.

Mines typically use a cyanide-based plant for ore processing and need to store the by-products in a dam called a tailings dam, long enough for the cyanide to be destroyed. The cost of using and maintaining tailings dams can go up to millions of dollars, said Mr Paul Hanna, founder and chairman of Clean Mining.

Toxic water from the dams also pose a threat to the environment and local communities living in the area. As a result, some countries, such as Hungary and certain states in the United States, have banned the use of cyanide in gold mining.

Clean Mining's solution uses a non-toxic reagent containing thiosulphate to recover gold at a rate comparable to cyanide usage. The company said the technology is suitable for all gold mining operations, regardless of size, scale and location.

"It can eliminate the need for tailings dams by incorporating a dry tailings process into the plant design," said Mr Hanna. "Subject to local environmental approvals, a Clean Mining plant can dry stack tailings and enable repatriation to appropriate locations."

A pilot test conducted at one of Clean Mining's sites in Menzies, Western Australia, yielded gold within 10 months.

The solution could even help increase the supply of gold since it allows companies to process the ore while remaining compliant with regulations, he added. The firm is in talks with four to five gold mining corporations to adopt the technology.

Mr Hanna told The Business Times that Clean Mining is establishing its global headquarters and operations in Singapore, where it opened its office a month ago. Research and development will remain based in Australia.