RESEARCH

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GOLD RECOVERY

In travelling down rivers from the mountains to the sea, gold particles become progressively smaller and more flattened. These smaller and flatter gold particles are more challenging for miners to capture. Our expert team is working to solve the problem of capturing these problematic gold grains, many of which remain in suspension in recovery plants and are lost to the tails and with around 25,000-30,000 ounces of gold mined every year on the West Coast, the size of the prize is significant.

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CARBON

We believe that there’s a real opportunity to develop new technologies using the existing coal that keeps the [coal-mining] communities alive for a little longer, and gives them time to transition out and change their local economies

Transforming mineral waste from the mining industry into advanced, high-value, carbon-based materials, which have applications in energy storage, the aeronautical and space industries, and building materials. 

Depending on the specific cell structure carbon foam can exhibit a range of useful properties, including low density, high compressive strength, high temperature resistance and tailored thermal and electrical conductivity. These properties make carbon foam ideal in many thermal, mechncial and electrical applications – rocket nozzles, high temperature insulation, fuel cell electrodes etc

Carbon foam can be used to manufacture tiles that withstand high temperatures for application in aerospace. Once a commercialization pathway is found, carbon foam will support the creation of new industries in New Zealand, as well as export market opportunities.

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RARE EARTH ELEMENTS

The 17 rare earth elements find uses in many low-carbon and smart technologies such as electric vehicles, windfarms, computers, and phones. The Government wants to encourage an REE-based industry in New Zealand, and the NZIMMR is spearheading research to make this happen.

 

West Coast mineral sands along the region’s coasts have revealed encouraging concentrations of REEs, including within minerals not normally thought of as bearing REEs, ilmenite, epidote, zircon. The NZIMMR’s search for REEs is extending to mineral sands and other areas within New Zealand. Despite their name, rare earths are common. The excitement is around finding economic deposits, and the NZIMMR is working on a better insight into their mineralogy to help create these.

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POUNAMU

A growing backlog of pounamu (greenstone) dust and shavings at pounamu carving workshops could find new life as 3D printed or injection-moulded jewellery and waka huia (treasure boxes), or as a strategic additive for composite materials such as concrete or packaging materials.

When pounamu (greenstone) is carved, it generates a lot of fine particle dust and waste material. Māori tradition emphasises the use of every part of a resource, and so, Ngāti Waewae’s been storing the carved pounamu leftovers for the day that novel applications for it could be found.

 

NZIMMR with support from MBIE’s Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund will work with the West Coast/Tai Poutini hapū to repurpose pounamu carving waste. Additionally, this research aims to develop the capabilities of NZIMMR researchers to feel confident and competent when working with their Māori collaborators and within a Māori environment.

The support of Te Rūnanga O Ngāti Waewae chairman Francois Tumahai in developing the research project is gratefully acknowledged.