Scientific Project

OptiWiM - Optimization of the Value Chain for Polymineral Ores of Economically Strategic Metals

Using metallurgical methods, OptiWiM coordinates the requirements for extraction and processing of polymineral deposits in the exploration of deposits. GMIT is carrying out a technical and economic feasibility study of Khalzan Burgedei rare earth metal mine.

Start Date:

16.05.2016

End Date:

16.05.2019

Faculty:

Faculty of Engineering

Industry Partner:

MONNIS/MLC Mongolian Lanthanoide Cooperation Company

Scientific Partner:

1. RWTH Aachen University 2. CBM Gesellshaft fuer Consulting, Business und Management mbH

Funded by:

Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany

Abstract

Polymineralic raw material deposits are economically more "robust" than others due to their diverse range of products. However, they still have the technological and economic disadvantage of comparatively expensive extraction and beneficiation processes. In connection with economic-strategic raw materials, polymineralic deposits, which have so far been less considered, are increasingly becoming the focus of attention. In the exploration stage, OptiWiM coordinates the requirements of extraction and beneficiation of polymineralic ores with the aid of geo-metallurgical methods. The projected study is exemplarily carried out at the polymineralic deposit "Khalzan Buregtei" in Western Mongolia.

Important parameters such as grain size distributions, mineral intergrowths, chemical and mineralogical composition of the ores are examined first. From the information gained, computer-aided 3D models are created, providing information about the required selectivity of the extraction process and information about the most suitable beneficiation methods.

The solutions found are examined for their technical and economic applicability. Geometallurgical methods combine geo-scientific, engineering and business knowledge. The methodology to be described with OptiWiM yield a contribution in making economic-strategic raw materials available in a way that reduces the importance of monopoly structures on world markets.

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Background

Khalzan Buregde is an example of alkali magmatite related ore deposits of the economic strategic elements Zr, Nb, Ta, Y, and REE. Such polymetallic deposits are robust against fluctuations in individual metal prices. Economic utilization of the material is hampered by a pronounced mineralogical and textural complexity so that resource assessments and economic decisions have to be made on an interdisciplinary, geometallurgical basis against the background of all factors relevant to the extraction process. The geo-metallurgical characterization and evaluation, as well as spatial modeling in feedback with steps for the development and optimization of the processing steps required for these complex deposits, are the topic of the sub-project located at the RWTH Aachen University.

Objectives 

  • Setup of a 3-D geological wireframe model and a conventional grade-tonnage block-model based on borehole data and own field studies.
  • Geometallurgical parameters such as mineral intergrows, grain size distributions, chemical and mineralogical composition of different ore types are determined by a combination of polarization microscopy, QEMSCAN, EPMA, LA-ICP-MS, XRPD and bulk geochemical analysis in order to define geometallurgical domains
  • Mineral processing testworks, like optical sorting, comminution, classification, magnetic separation and flotation are performed on bulk samples, predefined by geometallurgical domains.
  • Grade and tonnage models of the deposit will be revised and upgraded by geometallurgical parameters and parameters deduced from mineral processing testwork.
  • Development of an optimal mathematical mining and processing model based on the previous findings.

Expected results

A mineral processing scheme is developed on the basis of the definition of geometallurgical domains of a complex REE-Nb-Zr bearing mineral deposit. In addition to the direct findings on the economic use of the Khalzan Burged deposit, this study also allows the transfer of the geometallurgical evaluation scheme and the geological-geometallurgical 3D model to other Nb-SEE deposits of polymineral ores in Mongolia. With Mongolia as a raw material partner of Germany, this offers the opportunity to increase the diversification of the availability of strategic economic metals. A study on the general applicability of the scheme for optimizing value chains can also make a major contribution to the extraction of raw materials.