On last October, Rio Tinto annouced its partnership with Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute for recovery of critical minerals and metals.
If materials science has evolved considerably. Metallurgical processing and recovery of rare metals are in research phase. The initiative reflects the interest of Rio Tinto to add value to some of its as-sets (here Kennecott’s Bingham Canyon Mine and Resolution Copper Mining) in the future and to be positioned in the critical raw material market.
Nigel Steward, managing director Rio Tinto Copper and Diamonds Operations, commented: “CMI’s focus on the materials required for the US to be a global leader in clean-tech manufacturing fits well with our operational expertise in mining and smelting. We know there is potential to recover more rare metals and minerals in our current smelting process; we just need to find ways to do it more efficiently and economically. We are excited to be working with CMI to find innovative solutions.”
The partnership will focus on the efficient extraction of critical minerals from the copper smelting process across three core work streams:
1. Critical minerals: ‘Researching the improvement of potential recovery rates of critical minerals and metals (rhenium, selenium, tellurium, scandium, etc.) ‘
2. Tailings: ‘Exploring potential for increasing recovery rates of rare minerals and metals through tailings processing ‘
3. Recycling e-waste: ‘Examining process improvements that would facilitate the blending of pro-cessed electronic waste (‘e-waste’) with copper concentrates to materially increase the recovery of valuable metals such as gold, copper, silver, platinum, lithium and rare earths present in spent cellphones, computers and solar panels’
Rio Tinto has also signed a consortium agreement with Savannah Resources to develop their adjacent heavy mineral sand deposit (Jangamo) in Inhambane province in southern Mozambique.