The University of South Australia has formed a collaborative research funding partnership with Centrex Metals to use molten salt technology that is expected to reduce energy and water usage, as well as cut mining industry costs.
The technology is predicted to slash expenditure of mineral processing through using molten salts.
Undertaken by UniSA's School of Engineering and Future Industries Institute, the research is based around the Oxley Potassium project.
The proposed three-stage research programme will also expand existing molten salt research for solar energy applications into minerals processing and further bolster engagement between the research sector and industry.
UniSA Division of Information Technology, Engineering and the Environment (ITEE) pro vice-chancellor Simon Beecham said: "This project is a good example of research inspired by real-world challenges and opportunities, partnered with end-users, and underpinned by excellence.
"It involves UniSA researchers from a variety of disciplines, ranging from engineering to minerals processing, together with a South Australian industry partner to manufacture low-cost fertilisers."
The UniSA programme will develop a minerals processing circuit to leach, extract, and purify metals from silicate minerals in a molten salt environment.
Centrex Metals CEO Ben Hammond said that the technology will take advantage of the liquid properties of molten salt to convert metals within silicate ore to an extractable form and also separate and purify them without requiring aqueous processing.
Centrex Metals Limited CEO Ben Hammond said: "It will allow us to look at competing in the bulk fertiliser space for our globally unique large-scale potassium feldspar deposit at Oxley, creating more long-term jobs in Australia's currently struggling mining industry."
The first stage of the project has secured funding from the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA) and the Mining Industry Participation Office of South Australia (MIPO).
Image: UniSA associate research professor Frank Bruno. Photo: courtesy of University of South Australia.