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Partnership to increase gold recovery

- Wits University

Wits and DRDGold’s Ergo Mining Proprietary Limited (Ergo) sign a second five-year research and support agreement to enhance skills and research in mining.

Professor Thokozani Majozi, Dean of the Faculty and Henry Gouws, Ergo's Managing Director

The research will seek to allow for more effective optimisation and improve the probability of increased gold recovery, as well as environmentally friendly treatment technologies. The technological focus areas will comprise of four inter-related and interdependent categories, namely: alternative leaching technologies; fluidisation and recovery technology; Environmental treatment technologies’ and chemical measurements and modelling technologies.

Herman Potgieter, Professor of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering at the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering says “these areas of research are of interest and importance because it can help to recover more of the gold left in old mine dumps. Furthermore, do it in a more environmentally friendly manner by neutralising or removing the cyanide used in the process from the effluent, reduce the amount of water used in the process and improving the energy usage in the plant.

“For every additional 0.1g of gold recovered, profit increase by US$10 000. For a plant treating old mine waste containing 60 kg of gold per month, any such an improvement could yield substantial more net income for the company." 

“We also seek to obtain a detailed and thorough understanding of the environmental impact of the Ergo plant operations in terms of energy usage, effluents, and emissions during the liberation of the gold contained in the sulphides. The research will also assist Ergo in developing new measurement techniques to reliably quantify small amounts of gold in the leached solutions and predict the optimum reagents to use based on density functional theory (DFT) calculations and modelling techniques applied to various parts of the process.”

The partnership will also expand efforts to increase specialised skills for the sector by providing support to students.

Ergo’s Managing Director, Henry Gouws says DRDGOLD remains committed to engaging with educational institutions within the areas in which they operate to “set up programmes aimed at upskilling our youth, to empower them to make an active contribution to our economy.”

“We look forward to working with the Gold Research Group within the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering as we seek to optimise and improve gold recovery as well as identify and evaluate environmentally friendly treatment technologies.”

Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment Professor Thokozani Majozi has applauded the partnership.

“This is a momentous occasion and comes at a time when we are thinking anew in terms of how we sustain research going forward. We strongly believe that having collaborations of mutual benefit with key industries is essential.

During the signing ceremony Majozi highlighted the importance of long-term partnerships.

“We need long-term partners because research, by its nature takes time. You start seeing the benefits of the relationship over extended time.”

The School of Mining Engineering at Wits University is recognised as one of the largest mining engineering programmes in the world. Located at the heart of the South African mining industry, it is the only mining school in Africa with a significant postgraduate activity and draws many of its students from countries throughout the continent. 

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