Following a research initiative, a team of scientists at the University of Exeter’s Camborne School of Mines have developed a novel technique to obtain metals from the Earth. Called ‘key-hole-surgery’ the technique could be used to extract metals such as copper from its ore, and revolutionize the future of metal mining.
To receive validation for the technique, the research team has provided a proof of concept for the application of the technique in an electric field. This will involve controlling the movement of acid within a copper ore deposit of low permeability in order to selectively dissolve and obtain the metal at the site.
Importantly, the technique is a contrast to the conventional approach for mining such deposits which require the metal to be physically excavated, and requires removal of both impurities and any burden within the ore.
Moreover, the research team believes the new technique to have the potential to transform the mining industry. This is because it has the capability to melt metals from a large range of ores that were earlier considered to be inaccessible.
Besides this, the technique in non-invasive in nature. This indicates to usher in a more sustainable future for the mining industry, opine the research team.
In fact, the change required in techniques used in the mining industry is urgent. This is because there are a plethora of metals that need to be extracted to deliver green technology such as electrified vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure, and at the same time, limiting the environmental damage associated with the mining of valuable metals.
The study is published in Science Advances.