HomeBase MetalsAppropriate Process Technologies – new heights for mineral processing

Appropriate Process Technologies – new heights for mineral processing

Small mining conjures up reclusive old timers in days gone by, or perhaps hoards of clay covered artisanals digging up river courses today. But there is a whole new movement happening, a new fresh energy growing from within this sector looking to be recognised and acknowledged for what it is – the appropriate way to utilise these vast, unconventional resources. Commonly known as small scale mining or artisanal mining this sector has been in the wings of mining for ages.

Africa is well endowed with large mineral deposits and can boast top spot for gold, cobalt, platinum, chromite and diamonds, to mention a few. But it is also littered with a vast number of smaller deposits covering almost every element of commercial interest. The late 19th century saw an explosion of activity across the continent, the quest being mainly for gold. On the greenstone belts one was seldom out of earshot of the ubiquitous stamp mills that crushed the rock to liberate the precious metal. The ore was invariably visible reefs, outcropping at the surface, but in most cases the newcomers with their revolutionary stamp mills were not the first to work these reefs. Africa had been a major source of gold for a very long time. In Zimbabwe alone it is estimated that 22 million ounces were extracted between the 7th century and 1830, with 1,276 separate ancient sites having been identified. Copper and tin were also mined by the ancients across the continent, but the rest of the mineral array had to wait for modern times.

Fast forward to today and we find vast numbers of people, literally millions, sourcing their livelihood from minerals. What is interesting is that in recent times there has been an interest from this sector for better, more efficient technologies. Economics applies even at the artisanal scale, even more so, and the realisation of poor returns for a disproportionate input is driving a fresh new quest towards micro formality.

Gold has always facilitated the artisanal approach, always a ready market for yellow metal in any form, but with the possibility of the smaller sector accessing base metals and industrial minerals the need for quality compliance arises alongside the need to mine, work and beneficiate the minerals efficiently and effectively. The resources that suit this sector are the surface elluvials, rubbles, oxides and outwashes that may not qualify as definable reserves, but nevertheless make perfect targets for the smaller scale mining operations. The reason is simple, the minerals in these resources have been largely liberated by the process of natural degradation and all that is now necessary is to break up the matrix and let the values out. So instead of highly energetic mining and rock breakage, simple, low energy scrubbing plants suffice.


A RG60 gold plant utilising
GoldKachas as the downstream
gravity recovery process.

And so the emergent entrepreneurs who have grown to critical size from within have begun to access the web sites, visit the engineering and supply companies in search of solutions developed specifically for them. Appropriate Process Technologies (APT) has taken this sector seriously and has developed a range of comprehensive, reasonably priced solution plants that meet all the criteria. Available in 6, 20 and 80 tonne per hour variants, the plants can be configured for anything from gold to tantalite or chromite. The key feature of all these plants is that the comprehensive, light design enables them to be moved easily. This enables miners to follow the resource, thus minimising trucking. The low energy also allows on-site power generation, freeing the operation from the grid.

So much for the emergents growing to formality from within. Why not the same philosophy being applied by the large formal mining houses to maximise their resource utilisation? Interestingly, several have recently done just that. Why feed a large sophisticated hard rock milling plant with upper level oxides? Rather feed these through an appropriate simple plant in the early mine life and bring the milling plant on stream when the competent horizon is reached.

Some of these large scale investors have even installed APT scrubbing plants to simply treat surface elluvials with no deep level plans. APT has supplied into Africa alone in excess of forty RG scrubbing plants to date with orders underway for plants to South America and Indonesia.

The APT RG scrubbing plants are graced with many advantages; mobility, ease of operation, simple onsite erection, and chemical-free recovery being just a few. Factors such as low capex costs, quick start-up, low energy requirement, low opex costs, high productivity rate, and easy translocation are all paramount to the success of a venture and each of these pertains to and is encompassed within the RG scrubbing concept.

APT is a proudly African concern catering for not only African mining but the world’s. Who said small scale miners cannot achieve great things? They have done so with help from APT and with the advent of the RG2500 in the near future weighing in at 250 tonne per hour APT has come of age.