Advanced simulation technology to optimise the recovery of high value metals through heap leaching

Modelling industrial scale problems for significant economic benefit

Processing This case study describes the creation and use of advanced simulation technology by international mining corporations to optimise the recovery of high value metal recovery. 

The simulation technology involved the development of advanced novel computational methods and software tools to model industrial scale heap leach processes for large scale industrial application at major mining operations.

This focus on the development of optimised operational strategies, has produced considerable economic benefits measured in the multi-millions dollars worth to industrial sponsors. This includes $58 million dollars in additional revenue for one multi-national corporation over one year following the adoption of engineered heaps based upon the advanced simulation tools.

The development of the PHYSICA software toolkit, which contains a suite of novel compatible algorithms to enable the solution of complex problems, has been applied on a wide range of multi-physics problems largely within the context of manufacturing and minerals/metallurgical processing.

The ability to model industrial scale problems, which involves reactive porous media interaction amongst distinctive continuum physical phenomena with complex geometries, has produced significant economic benefits. This is especially true for the development of operational strategies to optimise the recovery of high value metals in solution.

Our research is on the development of computational methods and software tools to model industrial scale problems that involve reactive porous media interaction amongst distinctive continuum physical phenomena with complex geometries. The solution of which requires high performance parallel cluster computing. 

Applications to the heap leaching of high value ores, especially to the development of operational strategies to optimise the recovery of high value metals in solution since 2005, has been achieved through substantial industrially funded collaborative projects.

Our industrial partners are all major international mining and minerals corporations.

The modelling work typically underwrites either the decision making concerning the planning of future operations or the optimisation of existing ones. These industrial operations are multi-million dollar ventures where small improvements can make huge differences to the financial outcomes.