BASF launches Perth lab

GERMAN chemical company BASF has officially opened a global mining research and development centre in Perth to spur innovation in mineral processing and metal production and investigate energy and water efficiency.

Brooke Showers

In attendance at the launch, Australian Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson said the Australian mining industry relied on technological innovation to drive productivity and increase its global competitiveness.

BASF has leased space for the research centre at the Australian Minerals Research Centre under a long term agreement with the CSIRO to extract more from the science of mineral processing technology and apply it globally.

The aim of the chemistry lab will be to unlock more value from Australian minerals and sustain the research and development of metal production and processing.

“With the latest advances in mining solutions research, BASF aims to help mining operations to minimise water consumption, maximise recovery, reduce land areas consumed by tailings disposal and minimise the cost and time required to rehabilitate sites,” BASF vice chairman Dr Martin Brudermueller said.

BASF will also research energy reduction methods for processing ores, finding ways to use less energy to grind ores by improving efficiency.

The research centre will employ six senior material researchers by the end of the year and hire another 20 researchers over the next five years.

Their focus topics will include advanced rheology modifiers to improve the thickening process for valuables and tailings and modifying the crystallisation process in alumina production.

Modifying the crystal which is formed in alumina recovery and agglomerating more material is extremely commercially attractive to miners.

Alumina producers trying to make a more saleable product from their ore have expressed interest in the work BASF was doing and some initial work has been done with Alcoa of Australia.

BASF supplies products from its chemical division to mining clients including Newcrest Mining, Minara, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata.

As high grade mine deposits become exhausted, processing lower grade ores is one of the increasing challenges facing the mining industry.

BASF says it aims to help the industry face this challenge.

“High quality ores are becoming depleted and new mines are often in hostile locations while environmental, health and safety regulations are becoming more stringent,” BASF head of global oilfield and mining solutions Dr Steffen Kudis said.

“This new research and development centre will further develop our expertise in areas, which are crucial to meeting future needs.”

This article first appeared in ILN's sister publication