Geometallurgy versus Process Mineralogy in well-constrained ore deposits
In the last three decades, there has been vast research studies on the fields of geometallurgy and process mineralogy. Most of the research papers use the word geometallurgy and process mineralogy interchangeably making it hard for the layman to comprehend the differences between the two.
I have seen papers describing geometallurgy as being an important addition to any evaluation project or mining operation, and I have also seen the same description being used for process mineralogy. Both fields appear to seek to maximise the Net Present Value (NPV) of an orebody, while minimising technical and operational risk. Recent academic literature use both terms aiming to promote sustainable development initiatives by ensuring that all stages of extraction are performed in an optimal manner from a technical, environmental and social perspective. Both geometallurgy and process mineralogy are fundamentally built on the premise of automated mineralogy and leaching (e.g. alkaline or acidic tank, vat, heap etc.). To a large degree, most people in the industry prefer to say these two fields are related since they both offer a new dimension of understanding details of the ore type being processed and they are better tools to use for metallurgical responses in different mineral processing techniques.
In the context of South Africa (and anywhere in the world), where mining of core economically viable mineral deposits (be it gold, PGEs or iron ore) has reached a very mature level, geometallurgy and process mineralogy are often used for high-level diagnostic purposes during project scoping or when there are severe challenges with ore recoveries in the plant. Do you think the term geometallurgy and process mineralogy mean different things (provide details if you can)? Can these two fields be integrated to a day-to-day mining operation especially where both the geology and the metallurgy of a deposit are deemed to be well-constrained such as the Wits-type ore deposits where the general processing route is cyanidation (CIP/CIL)? Is there a scope for these fields of study in regions where mining has been active since the 1800s?
Dr Glen Nwaila