Scientists Found X-Rays Detect Unseen Gold Quickly And Accurately

Scientists Found X-Rays Detect Unseen Gold Quickly And Accurately

Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Canadian company Mevex have tested a new technique using powerful X-rays that can detect small trace of gold quickly and accurately.

According to project leader Dr James Tickner, CSIRO's study showed that this method is two-to-three times more accurate than the standard industry technique 'fire assay', which requires samples to be heated up to 1200°C. According to the CSIRO’s Dr James Tickner, gold processing plants will generally only recover 65 to 85 percent of gold present in mined rock using this method.

Dr Tickner was the project leader of a pilot study that examined a new technique called gamma-activation analysis (GAA), which involves blasting mineral samples with high-energy X-rays like those used in medical imaging. The X-rays make the gold radioactive for a few seconds, which allows it to be picked up with a sensitive detector.

Dr Tickner says GAA also offers other benefits. It is easily automated, offering the potential for a portable GAA facility about the size of a shipping container to be trucked to remote sites for on-the-spot analysis that takes just a few minutes to complete.

"Fire assay usually involves sending samples off to a central lab and waiting several days for the results,” says Dr Tickner. “Using GAA we can do the analysis in a matter of minutes, allowing companies to respond much more quickly to the data they're collecting. A compact GAA facility could even be trucked out to remote sites for rapid, on-the-spot analysis."

"The big challenge for this project was to push the sensitivity of GAA to detect gold at much lower levels – well below a threshold of one gram per tonne," he says.

Dr Tickner adds that the technology could also be modified to detect other metals, such as silver, lead, zinc, tin, copper and platinum group metals.

The researchers hope to have a full-scale analysis facility up and running in Australia within the next two years. Dr Tickner told Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, that the technology would cost in the ballpark of AUD$3 to $4 million (US$2.7 to $3.6 million), meaning mining companies would see the system paying for itself in quick fashion.

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Write by: RC - Thursday, August 15, 2013

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