Research overview and recent examples

The Centre’s Research Themes’

The Centre’s Research Projects are directly aligned to delivery of the Centre’s Objectives:

Centre Objective 1: Early gangue (waste) rejection, achieved through technology advances in coarse particle beneficiation, to minimise energy and water consumption

  • Research Theme 1: Early Gangue Rejection: Removal of waste ore at coarse particle sizes to pre-concentrate the ore, and hence reduce energy consumption in grinding hard rock and water losses to tailings 
  • Research supporting Theme 1 is focused on the recovery of minerals at coarse particle sizes, while rejecting liberated and near-barren gangue particle

Centre Objective 2: Fast, efficient beneficiation to minimise losses of high value metals, achieved through technology advances in fine particle beneficiation, to maximise resource recovery and product grade

  • Research Theme 2: Fine Particle Separation: More efficient processing of fine particles to maximise resource recovery and concentrate the product to reduce emissions during downstream processing
  • Research supporting Theme 2 is associated with developing rapid and efficient beneficiation technologies aimed at minimising the loss of high-value minerals, achieved through advancements in fine particle beneficiation to optimise resource recovery and product grade

    Centre Objective 3: Real time removal of solids from tailings, and rejection of water from solids, achieved through the introduction of novel hydrophobic interactions, and technology advances in dewatering (eliminating tailings dams)

    • Research Theme 3: Solid-Liquid Separation: More effective solid-liquid separation to recover more water and ultimately eliminate tailings dams
    • Research supporting Theme 3 aims to improve the efficiency of solid-liquid separations in order to recycle more water during the process, reduce the amount of water and solids going to tailings waste, and to make those tailings safe to store by dry stacking, ultimately to eliminate the need for tailings dams

    Research Review Committee 

    This committee consists of Research Theme Leaders who ensure the individual Research Programs (as outlined below) not only deliver on achieving excellence in advancing their core science but remain committed to delivering on the thematic core research objectives. They also review the effectiveness of the cross-program collaboration in achieving the core research (thematic) objectives, including the Centre’s translation to industry. 

    • Professor Chris Aldrich, Centre Chief Investigator (Curtin)
    • Associate Professor Kym Runge, Centre Chief Investigator (UQ)
    • Dr Eirini Goudeli, Centre Chief Investigator (UOM)

    Our research approach

    • Working closely with the minerals sector, equipment manufacturers and others in the community helps us identify big problems that we then strive to solve with scientific research, new techniques and new technology. It’s a practical and impact-orientated approach which can scale,” Centre Director Laureate Professor Kevin Galvin (UON)
    • Everyone is engaged in the mindset of development,” Centre Chief Investigator and Monash Node Leader Professor San H. Thang, AC (Monash)
    • Multidisciplinary collaboration is at the heart of the research we do within the COEMinerals and it is the foundation for scientific advancement and technology innovation. The advancements in the fundamental knowledge can be translated into practical applications through our strong connections with the minerals industry. The access to state-of-the art research facilities and technology available across the COE nodes further facilitate the high-quality research we do. As we build our research capacity, we are developing the next generation of leaders towards a sustainable future in the minerals industry,” Chief Investigator, Dr Susana Brito e Abreu (UQ)
    • A prominent and positive feature of Centre research is its interdisciplinary nature, which involves close collaboration between different nodes of the Centre and includes the exchange of research material (such as equipment, reagents and ores) as well as staff and students from several Centre nodes working on complementary aspects of various research problems. The Centre serves as a rich ecosystem for the development of a spectrum of science-based advances, ranging from fundamental research through to relatively mature technology development on the technology readiness level (TRL) scale towards commercialisation. Research is driven in no small measure by collaboration between the different nodes, which has resulted in significant project progress during 2023 which includes developments, not only in high TRL technologies, but also on the fundamental end of the spectrum,” Centre Chief Investigator, Curtin Node Leader and Research Review Committee member, Professor Chris Aldrich (Curtin)
    • Internode collaboration brings people with different but complementary skills and talents together to reach a better end. Our research directly contributes to the recovery of minerals that will shape future technology,” Centre Chief Investigator, Associate Professor Seher Ata (UNSW
    • COEMinerals is a vibrant research community determined to accelerate the realisation of the zero-emission mine’. We bring together expertise in the design of microbial-expressed peptide sequences, with the world’s pre-eminent polymer and physical chemists, and draw on more than 200 years of engineering capability to conceive, develop and implement ground-breaking innovation and technological solutions to impact transformative change in the global minerals industry. In doing so, we develop new scientific knowledge and empower the next generation of sector leaders,” Centre Chief Investigator, Professor Grant Webber (UON)

    Please refer to Annual Reports for Research Review Committee comments, along with detailed research Program, Theme and project details and objectives. 

    New ways to minimise energy & water use in mining

    The process of grinding rocks down to ultrafine particles (comminution) has a reputation for being the single biggest consumer of energy in the minerals industry. COEMinerals is delivering new technologies and innovative new ways to reduce the need for comminution, as well as reducing the size, scale, energy and water use during mineral processing (beneficiation).

    Maximising resource recovery and product grade

    We are applying advances in fast and efficient beneficiation of fine particles to achieve a 10 – 100 fold increase in separation speed, and significant reduction in the equipment size and scale. This approach helps to redefine economically what is a tailings stream. Our approach will be achieved primarily through enhancing hydrophobic interactions and novel system hydrodynamics, to increase product recovery, selectivity and product grade. 

    Dry Stackable Tailings (i.e. eliminating tailings dams)

    We are applying advances in​‘fast, efficient beneficiation’ of fine particles to solid-liquid separation in order to recover waste solids, reducing water losses and increasing water productivity, recovering targeted solids and exploiting hydrophobic interactions to enhance de-watering. Our aim is to eliminate the need for tailings dams.

    Our Programs

    Program 1: 2024 Research Themes and Objectives (in summary)

    As featured in the Centre's 2023 Annual Report - Below follows an introduction to Centre Research Themes, as well as 2024 Research Objectives (in summary) For project update summaries, please refer to the Research section of the COEMinerals 2023 Annual Report.

    Program 2: 2023 Research Programs and Objectives

    An overview of Centre Research in 2023, and 2024 'Research 'Themes' can be found in the 2023 Annual Report

    Program 3: Case study - Discovering the "Genetic Code" of Every Mineral (2023)

    As featured in the Centre's 2023 Annual Report - this case study overviews the game-changing work of researchers relating to mineral-binding peptides

    Program 4: Case study - Internode collaboration to develop and test bio-inspired alternatives for mineral processing (2023)

    As featured in the Centre's 2023 Annual Report - COEMinerals is applying novel chemistry to enable the replacement, recovery, regeneration and reuse of the chemicals that enable minerals separation and recovery at various stages of mineral processing. Monash node plays a central role in this multi-node effort.

    Program 5: Feature - An overview of COEMinerals technologies (2023)

    As featured in the COEMinerals 2023 Annual Report - An overview of COEMinerals technology development spanning novel prototypes to commercialised equipment for industry

    Program 6: Feature - Mapping Centre technology on The COEMinerals TRL Framework (2023)

    As featured in the 2023 Annual Report - COEMinerals has adapted NASA's approach to create THE COEMinerals TRL Framework, capturing the progress of technologies from early design to industry-ready implementations / industry adoption. We share our approach as well as how some of our technology is progressing.