Australia is leading the charge towards greener and safer gold production, with new technology for an environmentally superior gold recovery process.

Paul Breur leads the CSIRO team developing Going for Gold. © CSIRO, Damien Smith

The one ounce commemorative gold ingot, made from the first gold pour using CSIRO's cyanide-free process.

On the back of successful industry trials and the first gold pour last year, Australia’s national science agency CSIRO will transfer its ‘Going for Gold’ process technology to Australian company, Clean Mining Limited. A cost-effective and cyanide-free gold recovery process, ‘Going for Gold’ provides a safe, environmentally friendly alternative to conventional processes.

CSIRO Research Program Leader, Dr Chris Vernon, believes the technology not only overcomes a significant environmental hazard, it also opens the door for Australian and international gold miners and end users to capitalise on demand for sustainable processes and products.

“Developing an alternative process, which eliminates hazardous chemicals while maximising gold recovery, meets industry and consumer demands for more sustainably-produced gold,” Dr Vernon said.

The CSIRO-developed ‘Going for Gold’ process replaces cyanide with a safe, alternative reagent, known as thiosulphate. Thiosulphate dissolves the fine gold out of ores (the gold that has cannot be recovered by gravity) at similar rates to conventional techniques, creating a relatively cost-effective, non-toxic and safe alternative to the cyanide-based gold recovery process.

This method has undergone intensive testing in the laboratory to understand its leaching performance in association with reagent recovery and recycle, and the results indicate it can be applied to a range of ore types. It could allow small gold producers to mine low-grade, uneconomic or stranded gold deposits, as well as gold reserves in jurisdictions where cyanide-use is banned or restricted.

The CSIRO team developed a similar cyanide-free solution that was successfully tailored to Barrick Gold's Goldstrike Mine in 2014.

Clean Mining will deliver the new technology solution to a global market of gold producers, offering technology products and licences as well as turn-key processing plant options, plus equipment and product support throughout the mine life.

Clean Mining Managing Director, Jeff McCulloch, says the technology is suitable for new greenfields mines, as well as in existing mines which are looking to upgrade and transition to the new technology.

“This technology provides gold miners with an opportunity to proactively evolve their environmental, social and governance standards.

“This new technology literally delivers a new gold standard for the global gold industry.

“The technology is scaleable and cost effective, and the process has been tested and proven at an industrial-scale to deliver commercially viable results.” Mr McCullloch said.

Clean Mining are currently in negotiations with ICA Mining Services Pty Ltd in Australia’s Northern Territory to commission the first commercial plant to process gold using this technology, and with Nu-Fortune Gold to commission a plant in the Goldfields region of Western Australia.