Lethal cyanide and dangerous tailings dams could soon be a thing of the past for miners based on outstanding gold recovery rates from a breakthrough process being developed in Western Australia.

Read more: Cyanide-free gold processing solution launched

Test work conducted by Singapore-based Clean Earth Technologies returned an average 80-85% of gold from ore samples supplied by ASX-listed Genesis Resources’ Plavica gold mine, in North Macedonia. Tests were completed at the CSIRO laboratories in Perth and most of the gold was recovered within the first four hours.

The rapid extraction process replaces conventional cyanide with a non-toxic reagent that dissolves fine gold out of ores. The solution has successfully undergone field trials at a pilot plant in Menzies WA, operated by Western Australian company Clean Mining, part of the Clean Earth Technologies Group.

Clean Earth Technologies Group CEO Kevin Fell said the outstanding test results challenged the misconception that environmentally-friendly processes were more costly or less efficient.

“We are very pleased with the results. It further validates the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the process. This is a win for people and the environment as well as for resource owners around the world.”

Scalable for both large and small-scale operations, the new technology is suitable for greenfield mines as well as existing mining operations. 

“We have been working hard to make it possible for miners to extract gold in a safe, sustainable, and financially viable way. The need is becoming critical as more countries ban cyanide and we are seeing more disasters as aging tailings dams fail and spill noxious waste into the environment,” Fell said.

“In most cases our technology produced similar results to cyanide and is no more expensive when you look at the end to end process.  

“When you combine Clean Mining’s recovery and dewatering solutions, you can significantly reduce the mining footprint and avoid the risk by replacing massive tailings dams with dry-stack tailings that can be safely stored and re-processed.

Further tests on ore from the Plavica project are planned as Clean Earth Technologies continues to introduce its clean alternative to mining operators all over the world.

The process was named ‘best metallurgical innovation’ in the prestigious 2019 international Mining Magazine Awards.

Read more about the process here