PANalytical pushes for cost saving technologies in mining depression

By Kasia Patel
Published: Friday, 27 February 2015

Investment in technology needed for optimisation, with XRD and XRF offer better, faster analysis. The biggest opportunities lie in lithium and rare earths.

At a time when the mining industry is cutting high expenditure projects and putting less lucrative ventures on hold, technology providers are finding it increasingly difficult to convince companies to invest in new technologies – even when these could save businesses money in the long run.

Speaking with IM on the sidelines of SME 2015, Dr Uwe Konig, product manager for PANalytical said that greener technology is a hot topic in Europe, owing to increased regulation in the region as well as an increase in reporting and transparency.

"It is difficult, however, to get companies to adopt new technology to address this. Mining companies are conservative – elemental analysis is common so it’s in all the mines, but technology like near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR) or X-ray diffraction (XRD) face big entry barriers," Konig said.

The company’s handheld infrared technology, the ASD TerraSpec Halo, enables geologists in the field to literally point and click to analyse samples in less than 20 seconds, providing on-screen results of up to four minerals contained in a sample.

PANalytical also provides XRD technology, which allows for the analysis of phase composition of rocks, ores and mining process-related products.

According to Konig, both of these technologies allow for better, faster analysis and offer both energy and cost savings. "We still need to convince customers that it will save them money in the long run though," he told IM.

"It is very difficult to gain insight into the numbers representing actual savings. We need to analyse samples in order to be able to do that, but some companies don’t like to give out samples for competitive reasons," Konig added.

He outlined that the most effective strategy to persuade a mining company adopt a new technology is to go directly to the company and work together on projects from scratch, proving the technology’s effectiveness and letting the customer recognise the benefits.

Although this may seem like a long term strategy, PANalytical has already had success in the cement and aluminium sectors. "But even once a company is convinced of a technology, right now budget is an issue. However, we are looking at the current mining depression as an advantage – it gives us time to promote and convince so that when the time is right the technology can be adopted."

PANalytical has also had success in the fertiliser industry, where recently a complete automation for elemental X-ray fluoresecence (XRF) and mineralogical (XRD) analysis of phosphates was purchased by a large European apatite manufacturer.

The same technology can also be used for the analysis of potash and various salts.

Although different sectors are recovering at different rates – for example copper is expected to see a recovery before the end of 2015 – Konig believes that the future for PANalytical’s products also lies in niche markets, such as the process control in lithium and rare earths mining.