4 December 2009

Rio Tinto and The University of Queensland have today announced the formation of the Rio Tinto Centre for Advanced Mineral Sorting to be located at UQ's Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre in Brisbane, Australia.

The $11 million Centre will focus on the development of advanced technologies for the separation and upgrading of important minerals, such as copper and nickel, with increased energy efficiency, according to Grant Thorne, himself an alumnus of the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre and until very recently Rio Tinto’s Group Executive for Technology and Innovation.

"Today’s announcement cements a long term research relationship between Rio Tinto and The University of Queensland," he said.

"This Centre complements and integrates with our wider Mine of the Future work."

Valuable metals such as copper and nickel are becoming increasingly hard to find and recover using traditional processing techniques. New copper deposits typically contain lower ore grades with more complex geology than those found in the past, making recovery of target minerals more costly and energy intensive.

"The latest developments in advanced mineral detection systems and rapid data processing capability now makes automated mineral sorting a very attractive processing option," Rio Tinto Head of Innovation John McGagh said.

"Our work with The University of Queensland will develop state of the art approaches to sorting across a range of strategically important minerals."

"Rio Tinto and The University of Queensland have a rich history of research collaboration, and a long term commitment to the Centre solidifies this relationship,” University of Queensland Professor Ben Adair, newly appointed Director of the Rio Tinto Centre, said.

"The Centre has a mandate to explore the most innovative ideas in the field of mineral sorting, and to work with Rio Tinto to develop them into new industry-changing technologies," Professor Adair said.

"This new partnership is seen by both parties as an exciting opportunity to translate novel ideas into the state-of-the-art in mineral sorting worldwide. We have already started to scale up one concept and more are planned."

The Rio Tinto Centre for Advanced Mineral Sorting will run for an initial five-year period and complements other existing Rio Tinto Centres.

These Centres are located at the University of Sydney (automation) and Curtin University (sensing and materials) in Australia and Imperial College (mineral processing) in London. The Centres will work together to provide considerable and ongoing capability in mining and mineral processing.

High resolution photographs and media pack available at: http://www.riotinto.com/media/press_kit.asp