Exchange quotations of an ounce of gold after a sharp rise in early March corrected slightly, but continue to remain at much higher levels than in previous years. Now they are above $ 1900 and have every chance for further growth. Nothing surprising here, the yellow metal at all times was considered a "safe haven," where you can wait out periods of economic instability and high volatility.
But how long can mankind extract it? After all, the concentration of gold in the depths of steel is so low that it is almost impossible to see it with the naked eye. Moreover, if ten years ago the development of deposits where the content of useful component was at least 3-4 grams per tonne was called profitable, now such a rock, without any exaggeration, is considered rich. For example, every ton of ore, which is supplied to the processing plant of Polyus Aldan in Yakutia, contains only 1.2 grams of gold.
But even this is not the limit. The State Expert Review Board of Russia has already issued a positive conclusion for the construction of the second stage of the heap leaching pad at Kuranakh. The first one was built by Polyus' experts with the scientific support of scientists from St. Petersburg Mining University about four years ago and has already shown a very high efficiency. The new plant made it possible to produce rock with the content of as little as 0.6 grams per ton. That is, not only the poor ore, but also the so-called dumps, which are the waste of the mining plants that were formed during the previous decades.
However, most of the gold still goes to jewelers and bankers, due to the use of other approaches to process difficult to enrich raw materials, primarily flotation. The profitability of this method in connection with a gradual depletion of existing deposits and as a consequence, the need to work with "refractory" ore having fine dissemination, i.e. very small sizes of useful components, of course, is gradually falling. This is why gold miners, more than anyone else in the mining industry, are interested in innovative solutions that would make the process more productive. At the same time it is obvious that any technical re-equipment is associated with a plant shutdown and considerable loss of revenues. So attention to scientific progress is far from moving from the theoretical to the practical.
"Our main task is to reduce the cost and time of industrial tests in order to reduce the amount of investment from the business to implement new technologies. Laboratory research and the use of computer simulation based on data about the physical, mechanical, and mineralogical properties of raw materials from specific deposits make it possible to justify the effectiveness of a particular solution with a high degree of accuracy. Mining industry is quite conservative, the heads of specialized enterprises want to be sure that the investments made will pay off in the future," says Valentin Kuznetsov, a postgraduate student at St. Petersburg Mining University.
Now, under the guidance of university professor Tatiana Aleksandrova, he is engaged in substantiating the effectiveness of innovative technological solutions as applied to deposits of gold-bearing sulfide ores in the Far Eastern region. This research was made possible thanks to the fact that the former head of the Republic of Adygea, the scientist and goldsmith Hazret Sovmen allocated 200 million rubles in personal grants for graduate students at the Mining University. Sixty grants are aimed at stimulating developments in such fields as geophysics, oil production, petrochemistry, rare-earth metals, mechanical engineering, economics, reducing the technogenic impact on the environment, and mineral processing. Another two are for innovations related to hydrocarbon production on the Arctic shelf.
Valentin Kuznetsov says that the most important thing in his work is precise initialization of raw materials. Any mistake, even a seemingly insignificant one when preparing the model, can have a significant impact on the result. If the data is taken correctly, however, problems are virtually eliminated, because "the simulation results have a good convergence with the practical indicators."
"One of the most important tasks of our research is to narrow down the range of potential reagent-collectors and develop the most productive mode of their application. That is, to offer not only the most suitable reagents, such as butyl potassium xanthogenate and butyl aeroflot, but also to select their ratio in the mixture so that it allows to optimize the flotation front and the technological scheme, "- said the graduate student.
One of the main qualitative indicators of the reagents is hydrophobization. That is, their ability to repel during flotation from water and together with air bubbles and the valuable component to rise up, separating them from the waste rock. Evaluation of reagents on this feature, associated with the definition of their degree of wetting - one of the most important studies, its results have a huge impact on the final conclusions of experts. As Valentin Kuznetsov noted, this kind of research would be impossible without the use of expensive instruments.
"The Mining University's Research Center for Raw Materials Processing is equipped with the most modern equipment, allowing us to conduct a variety of experiments and obtain reliable scientific results. For example, we carried out flotation tests on a JK Batch Flotation Test Cell laboratory machine. However, we also have domestic equipment of no less quality. For example, we have pneumomechanical flotation machines from Mekhanobra and Vektiz Minerals. Technological equipment of our laboratories is really at the highest level. This is one of the reasons why the largest mining and oil and gas companies choose the Mining University for scientific support of their projects," explained the young scientist.
Let's remind that one of the partners of the Mining University and, in particular, the scientific center for raw materials processing of the university is the Omsk Titan Group. Together with St. Petersburg colleagues its specialists are developing bio-additives on the basis of vegetable raw materials for diesel fuel. This innovation allows reducing CO2 emission from exhaust pipes of cars with internal combustion engines almost twofold.