AN ENERGY efficient mining machine is using mineral waste products to create a more environmentally friendly cement product.
South Australian company IMP technologies (IMPTEC) have developed a super fine crusher that reduces comminution costs.
The company is currently trialling a semi-commercial unit at Hallett Concrete in Adelaide, South Australia’s capital.
The machine is being used to turn the waste from black sand or iron sand into a replacement for Portland cement.
IMPTEC Director John Doherty said the crusher was a game-changing invention that could eventually be at the forefront of the industry.
“What we’re involved in is reducing the amount of energy, which is usually electrical, and the cost of media. You can also include lower maintenance costs because it’s just one machine,” he said.
“The energy density of the crusher is greater than other machines and reduces around 30 per cent of energy costs.”
Comminution is the essential processor of minerals into cement, more commonly Portland cement, a known producer of a number of greenhouse gases.
It also accounts for almost 40 per cent of total mining costs and three per cent of the world’s energy consumption, prompting the search for a more efficient solution.
Conventional methods include breaking down large rocks to a few centimetres, crushing them further to fit into a ball mill, and grinding the minerals with the help of media and water till the material came out in slurry form.
The machine shortens the process by merging the second and third stage. It is unique because it also able to run the process dry and without the use of media.
Doherty said the company plans to produce a fully commercial product by the end of the year.
“Our semi-commercial unit takes in orders of two tonnes per hour,” Doherty said.
“If it approves itself over the next few months, it would be good. We’re looking at scaling up to 100 tonnes per hour.”
The transformation of black sand or granulated slag into cement is a world first.
Last month IMPTEC was awarded the Statewide Super Innovation in Resources Award for its super fine crusher at the inaugural South Australian Resources Industry Awards.
The judging panel included the leader of the Minerals and Energy strand at the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute Bill Skinner who said that as good deposits of high-grade minerals diminish, the need to grind more material finer was vital.
“Energy consumption is going to go up if we are trying to keep up with what is needed in terms of metals. So anything that is going to reduce the footprint of an operating plant is going to be good,” he said.
“Portland cement is very energy intensive to produce and produces a lot of CO2 in the process. If you are using something that is actually a waste product, that is what you want.”
“This (IMPTEC’s super fine crusher) particular technology offers much reduced energy consumption. Up scaling it is a challenge that needs to be overcome.”