The successful development of industrial minerals projects requires an integrated, holistic understanding of the metallurgical and product performance test work in the context of the geological setting of the deposit and applied to mining, processing and marketing of saleable products. The product specifications provide the essential starting point for geometallurgical studies. A sound understanding of the desired product is needed to design and interpret a program of test work. Examples are provided from recent studies on bentonite and graphite deposits.
For bentonite projects, the naïve testing of only the cation exchange capacity (CEC) as a measure of purity can lead to unexpected outcomes when the deposit is mined. The CEC attribute may remain the same, while other important properties such as pH and swelling index change markedly with depth, due to weathering and oxidation, leading to disappointing production outcomes.
For graphite projects it is not enough to report only total graphitic carbon content (TGC). Knowledge is required of the in situ flake size and textures in addition to purity and flake size distribution of extracted graphite, which may all vary from one domain to another across the deposit. Such geometallurgical attributes of the ore will impact on the ‘basket price’ used to estimate the value of marketable parcels of expected product.
Disclosure of such information must be considered part of fully informing the market. As with all new project developments, consideration of the JORC (2012) and VALMIN (2015) Codes requires disclosure of all material information. This includes the geometallurgical characterisation, ie those aspects of the mineralogy that impact on resource evaluation, ore reserve definition and project valuation.
Shaw, W J and Scogings, A J, 2017. The importance of geometallurgical test work for industrial minerals projects, in Proceedings Tenth International Mining Geology Conference 2017, pp 83–92 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).