A new research centre has been set up to bring an academic edge to the copper industry.

The $14.6 million Research Consortium – Unlocking Complex Resources through Lean Processing – brings together a range of mining sector and research partners, supported by $4 million over four years from the government of South Australia.

“One of the key challenges facing the mining industry is the variability in the ore body being mined,” says Professor Stephen Grano, director of the new Consortium.

“We’ll be developing advanced technologies to tailor the mining and processing options to the specific characteristics of the mineral ore in real-time – an approach known as lean processing.

“The key will be integration of data from when the resource is still in the ground, right through the mining and processing stages. We’ll be using data analytics and machine learning, enabling the whole system to be optimised rather than optimising isolated parts.”

One of the first steps will be the establishment of a secure data room with direct data feeds from sensors set up within existing commercial mining operations, which will allow analysis in real time and in comparison to historical data.

Within the first 18 months, the consortium aims to be able to justify the capital cost of a system of conveyor belt sensors to allow mass ore sorting; and, in another project, to have set up a working system of sensors installed within grinding mills to maximise throughput while still meeting product specifications.