Minerals for our Future

ARC Centre of Excellence for Enabling Eco-Efficient Beneficiation of Minerals

COEMinerals is making mineral recovery more efficient, more effective and less wasteful

COEMinerals is discovering and inventing science-based, more-efficient ways to recover minerals

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Enabling Eco-Efficient Beneficiation of Minerals (COEMinerals) is creating new and inventive new ways to separate minerals and metals — including rare earth minerals (REM), and critical or strategic minerals — using less water, less energy and with less waste.

The Centre aims to transform the field of mineral processing by developing world-leading innovation and capability in mineral separation techniques. 

  • The Centre’s Mission is to develop deep scientific knowledge that enables the establishment of new, transformational technologies in minerals beneficiation, to deliver a sustainable future for Australia’s minerals industry
  • The Centre’s Vision is to double energy and water productivity in the mining sector by 2030, maintaining the drive towards the zero-emission mine’ and reduce losses of high value metals during processing by 90%
  • The Centre’s Strategy is to work in partnership with the minerals industry, Mining & Equipment Technology Services (METS), the community and other stakeholders to provide advice, thought leadership, research, education, people and transformational innovations

The Centre aims to transform the minerals sector by:

  • Reducing energy and water use during minerals processing (beneficiation): Our stretch goal is to double energy and water productivity in the mining sector by 2030, maintaining the drive towards the zero- emission mine’
  • Increasing mineral recovery during minerals processing: Our stretch goal is to reduce loss of high value metals during minerals processing by 90%, increasing the concentration of recovered products used in metals refining
  • Training a New Generation: Our goal is to deliver exceptional educational experiences that enable, up-skill and empower a new generation of research, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and minerals sector leaders. The Centre creates exceptional educational experiences that enable, upskill and empower a new generation of research, STEM and minerals sector leaders. 

Centre Director Laureate Professor Kevin Galvin (UON) shared:

We continue to address and adapt our work to ensure we are meeting contemporary challenges, and so our members are future-work ready whether their career path takes them into academic or industry roles.”

Some context: Many minerals and metals are in high demand, but some are becoming harder to recover

Despite minerals being a finite resource many are in high demand in modern society for many purposes, including medical devices and for use in new technologies to support the clean energy and net-zero’ transition.

COEMinerals is improving the early processing (‘beneficiation’) stage of mineral processing, where minerals are separated from the ore that surrounds them after crushing has occurred, which is a crucial step in delivering minerals and metals to society.

Historically this separation process has been highly energy consuming and wasteful, and many techniques used today are inefficient, between 50 – 100 years old and no longer fit for purpose. The waste’ created, which often includes mineral particles, is stored in tailings dams’.

COEMinerals’ research strengths address challenging problems. We are developing transformational technologies and new approaches in support of a competitive and environmentally sustainable future for Australia and its minerals sector

  • The Centre is creating new possibilities for transformational change to the global mineral processing industry and beyond, especially through world leading capability in applying peptides and Reversible Addition−Fragmentation Chain-Transfer (RAFT) polymers to critical and strategic minerals. 
  • Our team is delivering world-first innovation in the application of polymer chemistry and peptides in minerals processing: The extraordinary level of (peptide) selectivity opens the door to novel forms of processing, essential for delivering cost-effective performance at the million tonne per annum level needed by the industry. High selectivity means high mineral upgrades and therefore much smaller cost effective and environmentally acceptable downstream processing,” Centre Director Laureate Professor Kevin Galvin said.
  • The Centre is also creating bio-inspired ingredients to one-day replace other chemicals used in mineral processing (for emulsions or as surfactants, reagents, collectors, frothers, flocculants). Chemicals are added to solutions containing ore and mineral particles to selectively enable some particles to attach to each other and/​or to bubbles, to help them float or sink, and/​or remain in a stable froth’ for collection as part of mineral processing flotation’ methods. Many traditional methods of froth flotation consume high volumes of one-off use chemicals. By the end of 2027, it’s estimated the global market for collectors used in mineral processing would reach US$100 billion (Source: Data Intelo Mining Collectors Market Research Report, 2023; p 112.
  • Several of the Centre’s mineral resource separation technologies are undergoing multi-million-dollar full-scale trials, while others are now delivering industry impact to facilitate decarbonisation.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Enabling Eco-Efficient Beneficiation of Minerals is funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council Centres of Excellence funding scheme. 

The Centre’s team comprises researchers representing nine Australian universities including, the University of Newcastle, its administrative base. Other universities include: Curtin University (Curtin), Deakin University (Deakin), Monash University (Monash), The University of Adelaide (UoA), The University of Melbourne (UOM), The University of New South Wales (UNSW), The University of Queensland (UQ) and The University of South Australian (UniSA).

The Centre works closely with partners, industry and other experts from around the world. 

Learn more about us here.

Why transform the minerals industry?

The cleaner-energy imperative for change

The transition to a net-zero emissions economy will be minerals and metal-intensive

  • Australia is committed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and Australia will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43% below 2005 levels by 2030
  • Growing demand imposes extraordinary demands for minerals extracted from the earth. However, many current minerals separation (beneficiation) practices are technologically, economically, and environmentally unsustainable, having not advanced much during the last 50 years

Did you know?

Metals are critical to clean energy and low-carbon technologies. They are key components of solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and batteries

More than 60 different metals are required to make a smartphone including gold, copper, aluminium, silver, zinc and lead. Rare earths provide smartphones with their functionality, to vibrate or even to generate the colour display [1]

Why transform the minerals industry?

The environmental imperative for change

Despite minerals being a finite resource, many mineral separation processes are energy inefficient, and can be highly wasteful with up to 20% (or more) of minerals lost to waste’.

  • The waste generated by many current minerals-separation processes can require massive tailings dams, requiring excessive water consumption. We want to make tailings dams (as we know them today) a thing of the past. Removing tailings dams reduces multiple risks, including the risk of leaks or catastrophic breach. Many tailings dams are also a yet-untapped minerals resource, still holding very fine (microscopic) minerals particles. We’re striving to find new ways to recover those minerals

Did you know?

Minerals and metals are also essential for many advanced medical devices and other technologies including smart phones and computers. Copper is found in MRI scanners and is vital in medical equipment due to its anti-microbial properties. Titanium is used for surgical equipment due to its bacterial resistance; and silver is present in some antibiotics for accelerating the healing process [2]

Why transform the minerals industry?

The economic imperative for change

Minerals are critical for Australia’s future

  • In December 2023, Australia updated its Critical Minerals and Strategic Materials lists to recognise the importance of a wider range minerals to modern technologies, economies and national security, and in support of Australia’s transition to net zero emissions. This further recognises the importance of minerals in enabling clean energy technologies, advanced manufacturing and other applications (source: https://​www​.indus​try​.gov​.au/pu…)
  • Minerals are likely to underpin much of Australia’s national wealth in coming years based on anticipated increasing demand, matched with the relative scarcity of some minerals or the increasing challenge of their sustainable and efficient recovery
  • The Australian Government is also committed to growing Australia’s role as a reliable, sustainable and globally competitive supplier of energy and mineral experts, along with supporting sovereign capability growth through downstream value-adding manufacturing. (Australia has an abundance of critical minerals which are vital for clean energy and advanced technologies like smartphones, computers, solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles: Department of Industry, Science and Resources)
  • The Australian Government regards high-quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education as critically important for our current and future productivity, as well as for informed personal decision making and effective community, national and global citizenship (Department of Education)
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Our Research

Our research aims to:

Reduce Energy and Water Use (increase energy & water efficiency) during mineral processing

Increase Mineral Recovery / Reduce loss of metals during mineral processing

Train a new generation of research and sector leaders

Our Team

COEMinerals taps into the skills and expertise of some of Australia, and the world’s, most eminent scientists representing diverse scientific disciplines.

COEMinerals members are developing technologies, inventing world-first scientific techniques and enabling new capabilities for minerals recovery during minerals processing (beneficiation).

Members collaborate closely with academic, industry, community and sustainability experts.

The Centre has multiple committees that help guide our focus and activity.

People Partners

Research Candidates

Want to be part of our research team or learn more about our work? 

Contact us here

More information

Partner Organisations

Industry Partners