Thesis: Feasibility of electrokinetic in-situ leaching
This PhD project will evaluate the potential electrokinetic in-situ leaching to recover gold from low-permeability ore. A preliminary set of well-controlled experiments on synthetic material will be followed by tests on intact gold-bearing host rock. The latter will be accompanied by a thorough geochemical-mineralogical characterisation of the core samples, to understand the role of reductants in explaining the efficiency of gold in-situ leaching. Numerical simulations will support the experimental work to obtain an in-depth analysis of the collected data and improve the understanding of the complex physical and chemical interactions that control EK-ISL. Once successful, the applicability to other metal/lixiviant combinations can be investigated.
Why my research is important
Many ore deposits are currently uneconomic due to low grades or being too deeply buried. In-situ leaching, i.e. injection and recovery of a lixiviant into the subsurface to dissolve the metal of interest, may allow economic extraction of these resources, but is often not feasible due to the low permeability of the deposit. A combination of electrokinetics and in-situ leaching (EK-ISL) could offer a unique opportunity to overcome the shortcomings of in-situ leaching when applied to lower permeability resources. Therefore, this research will provide the important first step towards the implementation of a new and more environmentally friendly mining method.