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Rio Tinto in partnership with University of Nottingham

World Coal,

The University of Nottingham has agreed a £6 million, five-year partnership with mining giant Rio Tinto, which has resulted in the opening of the Rio Tinto Centre for Emergent Technologies at the campus of the UK university. The partnership between the University of Nottingham and Rio Tinto will deliver the next generation of innovative technologies for the mining industry.

The Rio Tinto Centre will be a centre of excellence that will develop world-changing technologies to address issues related to energy efficiency, waste reduction, capital productivity, extension of resource life and process and operator safety.

With demand for minerals growing around the world in recent years, particularly in emerging markets, mining companies have been increasingly forced to develop mining projects in deeper mines and more remote locations, which on turn has intensified the need for safer, more environmentally-friendly and cost-effective processing methods.

Research into this area of mining has expanded significantly at the University of Nottingham. The university has secured a number of major research grants and investments in world-class experimental facilities, including some of the largest materials processing systems in the world.

The future of mining

Rio Tinto’s Mine of the FutureTM programme began in 2008 with the aim of creating next generation technology that would improve efficiency, enhance health, safety and environmental performance, as well as lowering costs. Rio Tinto said that an integral part of the programme has been developing strong partnerships with leading universities across the world.

Engineers at the University of Nottingham will carry out research focused on new ways of separating ores based on the properties of individual rocks, meaning that waste material with no valuable minerals contained within it can be rejected before it undergoes further energy-intensive processing.

Efficient mining

Researchers at the centre will focus on how the significant energy costs that are associated with crushing and grinding rocks for metal extraction can be reduced. They will also look at increasing the recovery of valuable minerals, which would thereby ensure less waste is produced from the process and that higher metal recoveries are produced at a low energy cost.

The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham has a long history of working with Rio Tinto across a number of sectors, including improving the efficiency of rock breakage through electromagnetic processing, reducing the environmental impact of mining operations and improving the efficiency of mineral separation processes.

The establishment of the new Centre for Emergent Technologies is founded on these previous collaborations.

Expert research overcomes future challenges

Group executive of Technology and Innovation at Rio Tinto, Preston Chiaro, said: “The Partnership with the University of Nottingham will ensure that Rio Tinto can solve some of the key technical challenges facing mining in the future. Our aim is to always work with the best research groups in the world and Nottingham is an obvious partner.”

The Rio Tinto for Emergent Technologies pulls together academic staff and researchers from disciplines across Engineering, including leading experts in process design, materials characterization, numerical modelling and simulation and materials testing.

Professor Sam Kingman, research director of the Rio Tinto Centre for Emergent Technologies, said: “This truly multi-disciplinary partnership with Rio Tinto will enable the delivery of significant tangible outputs that have the potential to provide a step change in the performance and productivity of Rip Tinto’s operations. It will also provide a real focus for our activities here at the University of Nottingham through provision of a clear pathway to deliver quantifiable impact from our research.”

Professor Chris Rudd, pro vice-chancellor for External Engagement at the University of Nottingham, added: “If the mining industry is to continue to meet the demands of a growing population in a sustainable way, then new technologies are going to be required to meet the new challenges. We are looking forward to working with colleagues at Rio Tinto in order to investigate these innovative new ideas."

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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