Synergen Met and The University of Queensland were recognised at the Institution of Chemical Engineers’ Global Awards in Gloucestershire on 7 November 2014, for their with their invention of a world-first process to produce cyanide at mine sites.
The Australian team’s modular on-site cyanide production unit took out the evening’s top prize, winning the 2014 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemical and Process Engineering, as well as winning the Core Chemical Engineering category.
Synergen Met Managing Director, Chris Dunks, said the company had already fielded interest from gold mining companies in Australia, Africa and North America, eager to consider the new system.
“For gold producers, on-site cyanide production is a game changer as it gives the producer control over an essential material in their production process, while cutting costs and risk,” Mr Dunks said.
“Our process will allow mining companies to reduce their transportation and manual handling of cyanide concentrate, and give more certainty over their supply chain while significantly cutting costs.
“We believe our on-site production technology can produce 14 per cent of the global mining industry’s production requirements within five years.
“We are thrilled with this international recognition against some of the world’s largest companies. It is a significant coup for Synergen Met, The University of Queensland and Australia’s research and development future.”
Synergen Met is currently completing a pre-commercial trial of the process, which is safer, more environmentally friendly and significantly cheaper for mining companies.
Cyanide has been used in gold production for more than 120 years, but its transport, storage and handling poses significant risks to people and the environment, with the European Union classifying it as “very toxic”.
Mr Dunks said Synergen Met was currently finalising customers for its first 450 tonne/year production unit next year, and expected to install more than 30 units a year from 2017 as mining companies started to realise the benefits of the new technology.
“Our work means for the first time, mining companies can produce cyanide on demand and feed directly into existing mills. This removes the risk of supply delays and reduces the need to store large volumes of toxic chemicals in purpose built facilities,” he said.
“Our technology has the potential to revolutionise the cyanide production market, and tonight’s award is recognition of the innovation our process will bring to the industry.”
The new process differs from existing cyanide producers by using nitrogen instead of ammonia as a source material.
Nitrogen is one of the most abundant minerals on earth and can be extracted from the air for cyanide production using existing, off-the-shelf technology.
The team has been collaborating with The University of Queensland’s Department of Chemical Engineering since 2007, led by Professor Victor Rudolph. Synergen Met and The University of Queensland are currently working under an Australian Research Council Grant focused on the commercialisation of Synergen Met’s process.
The IChemE awards are chosen through more than 70 shortlisted entries competed in 15 categories across the chemical and process industries.