Gold extraction technology wins Curtin Commercial Innovation Awards 2014


Mr Bill Staunton and his team from the Curtin Western Australian School of Mines have won first prize at the 2014 Curtin Commercial Innovation Awards which aim to identify new technologies, products or services arising from research at Curtin, with a special focus on new ways to improve productivity in industry and education.

Gold extraction technology wins Curtin Commercial Innovation Awards 2014
Image credit: Curtin University Facebook page

Adjunct Professor Bill Staunton and his team won first prize for developing a simple and robust carbon meter to improve the amount of gold extracted through the widely-used Carbon-in-Pulp extraction process.

This process relies on dissolved gold absorbing onto activated carbon in large, one million litre process tanks. Currently the carbon concentration isn’t well monitored or controlled, with measurements taken using a labour intensive and often inaccurate process of sampling one litre from the top of the tank.

This winning device automatically measures a 20 litre sample regularly throughout the day, providing vastly improved data from which metallurgists can optimise the process more effectively, reducing costs, using carbon more efficiently and reducing the amount of gold lost to waste.

Director of Curtin’s Office of IP Commercialisation, Rohan McDougall, said the simplicity of the new technique and ability for continuous testing meant a previously labour intensive and often inaccurate process could soon be obsolete.

“Instead of sampling a litre of carbon from the top of a one million litre tank, this approach automates the process, measuring 20 litre samples regularly throughout the day, making it less labour intensive and much more accurate,” Mr McDougall said.

“The prototype is currently being trialled in Victoria and we are looking to market the technology to gold mines worldwide in the near future.”

There were four other winners which took out prize categories in this year’s awards.

Associate Professor Anton Kepic, in collaboration with Gordon Stewart, Brett Wilkinson and Professor Christian Dupuis have won the Science and Engineering Prize for  developing the Autonomous Sonde; a small shuttle-like device that drilling staff can use to collect down-hole geological data when drilling in minerals exploration.

“The Autonomous Sonde is a great example because it collects high-quality data which previously could only be collected with expensive equipment and specialised staff,” Mr McDougall said.

The Curtin Business School Prize went to Dr Peter Dell working in conjunction with the Business Development team from the Chamber of Commerce. Dr Dell and his team have created an improved recruitment system for businesses to meet their internship and graduate recruitment needs.

“The Curtin Business School Prize winner showed a very different approach to productivity, by providing a more effective method of sourcing graduates that have the specific traits that an employer is seeking,” Mr McDougall said.

Dr Janet Howieson (Curtin) and Mr Peter Jecks from Abacus Fisheries have won the Health Science Prize for developing a more sustainable process to design and produce products from the waste created from processing seafood.

“Creating gourmet fishcakes form processed crab waste is quite a feat, and it shows the sort of quality we can expect in the project’s new phase, where they aim to produce tasty, nutritious and easy to digest meals for hospitals and aged care facilities,” Mr McDougall said.

The Innovation in Education Prize went to Dr Janet Beilby for developing the Empathy Simulator, which provides a cost-effective way for students in the health field to practice and master essential interpersonal and rapport-building skills.

“Finally, the Empathy simulator was a stand-out training tool, which provides cost-effective way for health students to master essential but tricky interpersonal skills, like breaking bad news to patients,” Mr McDougall said.

Prizes for this year totalled some $35,000 in cash and commercialisation services provided by the award’s sponsors. Previous winners have gone on to successfully raise capital and result in new products and services that benefit the community.

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