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The Australian National University (ANU) and Curtin University (CU) have partnered to help mining firms extract critical materials in an environmentally sustainable manner.

This collaboration aims to ensure the long-term viability of the Australian minerals industry by helping mining companies better identify, characterise and extract critical minerals.

By combining expertise and research, the two universities will assist the industry with ore body characterisation, education and training.

ANU researchers will help characterise minerals using their knowledge in 3D modelling and custom technology developed in-house. This is said to enable mining companies to remove minerals easily and safely from the ground.

Commenting on the partnership, ANU deputy vice-chancellor Keith Nugent said: “Minerals are critical to existing, new and emerging technologies that power our lives and businesses every day.

“The iron ore industry, for example, is intensely competitive worldwide and increasingly dependent on advances in product performance and energy efficiencies.

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“Both are dependent on innovations in the management of ore material driven by a more effective characterisation of the ore product and understanding of the downstream performance potential of the ore as it progresses along the value chain from the mine to mill.

“ANU has built a 3D platform for imaging, processing, physical modelling, understanding and designing the characteristics of the earth. It will enable minerals companies to quickly identify the materials they are searching for and how to best extract them.”

The collaboration is supported by an investment exceeding $45m in the John De Laeter Minerals Characterisation facility and the computational and data analytics capability being enabled through the Curtin Institute for Computation.

CU deputy vice-chancellor and research professor Chris Moran said that the two universities will harness the fast acceleration of characterisation and imaging technologies as they seek to improve competitiveness in the minerals space.

Moran added: “A key component of the collaboration will be helping the Western Australia mining sector, as well as other Australian companies, continually improve their operations, as well as future-proofing Australia’s emerging green steel and critical metal industries.”