The copper industry faces an urgent need to innovate as demand for the metal grows, a tech expert says.
Washington DC–based International Copper Association director, Technology Development and Transfer, Hal Stillman was commenting ahead of the Copper To The World Conference in Adelaide today.
Mr Stillman, who will feature in a video presentation to the Adelaide forum, says developing new and reliable industrial technology requires “a lot of time and financial investment” to reduce risks and assure performance.
“That is not a simple task in copper mining which has seen only a few major changes in extraction and processing,” Mr Stillman said.
“And it is an urgent problem. The world is demanding more and more copper, but is also demanding that the mineral’s commercialisation be greener, cleaner and smarter, with minimal impact on the environment.”
Mr Stillman pointed to the $65 million Aurus III venture fund as the only fund solely focused on copper mining innovation.
The copper-centric Aurus III Copper Venture Fund was established in Santiago in Chile in 2015 to provide funding to start-ups and new tech companies interested in developing technologies that will benefit the copper industry.
Mr Stillman said that before closing this year, fund managers met with over 480 companies, entrepreneurs and startups, selected 41 for further evaluation, and invested in 10.
Aquamarina: Soil stabilisation through biomineralisation – this technology promises robust, truck ready surfaces through a customised mix of water and bacteria
MineSense: A breakthrough in ore sorting – this technology embeds in-shovel or conveyor sensing of ore quality and impurities.
CiDRA: New beneficiation processing technology – a process improving mineral recovery at all sizes, meaning higher throughput, less energy and higher profitability.
Scarab Recovery Technologies: Recovering valuable materials from tailings – created by the Aurus fund to reduce the level of calcium going into tailings.
ProActive Office: Integrated mine operations management software – this system has government, telecom and mining customers, but requires additional funding to expand.
“If a mining company were to implement several of the emerging technologies described above, the results, aside from the profitability bump, would be dramatic and valuable,” Mr Stillman said.
“These would include 50 per cent less tailings, 45 per cent less grind energy and 35 per cent less water for the same amount of copper.
“There is a therefore a need for long-term funding to incubate copper innovations towards commercial use. A venture fund can bridge this gap, but a venture funding ecosystem can do even better.”
A new fund, Aurus IV, is raising $100 million to address industrial technology innovation in extractive industries including copper, lithium, precious metals, and others.