GTK Mintec – pioneering solutions for mining operations and the circular economy
A unique set of research services related to mineral exploration, mining operations and other geomaterial studies under one roof. This is what GTK Mintec’s pilot plant and research laboratories in Outokumpu and Espoo, together with GTK’s unit focusing on mining environment research, offer to customers.
Mintec provides overall expertise on an international scale.
“Our research services cover the whole chain from mineralogical and isotope geology studies and laboratory-scale beneficiation tests all the way to continuous large pilot plant-scale runs,” says Jouko Nieminen, Head of the Mineral Processing and Materials Research unit at GTK.
GTK Mintec specialises in process research for ore, minerals and products of the circular economy and in the development of beneficiation technologies in cooperation with the industry, equipment suppliers and research institutes. The laboratories’ field of expertise covers process and research mineralogy, as well as studies of radiogenic and stable isotopes.
Applied mineralogy studies provide essential information on the occurrence, composition and grain size of ore and detrimental minerals, and, for example, the inclusions of valuable mineral particles. The information is needed for planning ore enrichment processes, for the basis of upgrading the concentrates, and for environmental studies.
“Our goal is to be an independent partner for the whole mining operations value chain. Our core competence covers battery minerals, base metals, industrial minerals and their research, and management of mining environment, which are currently very much in focus,” Nieminen adds.
GTK Mintec’s services support mineral exploration, mining operations, the circular economy and customers who need research data on minerals or isotope geology.
Modern laboratory methods guarantee that Minteccan deliver the data on the origin and age of the ore and the bedrock and provide valuable additional information on the ore minerals, structure and concentrations of the rock samples. Isotope geological research of surface and ground waters serves communities’ water management and ground water surveys.
Renewal of the equipment base serve customers
Varied customer assignments, research collaboration with technology suppliers and universities, and a renewing equipment base advance our competences.
Early this year, a Raman microscope was acquired for the mineralogy laboratory in Outokumpu. It strengthens the accurate identification of minerals. The Raman microscope can be used, for example, to identify lithium minerals, which are important for the increasing use of batteries.
In 2020, GTK Mintec will renew large parts of its equipment base to serve our customers even better.
Next year, a next-generation microanalyser will be acquired for our laboratory for quantitative mineral analytics.
“We want to keep up with the development and offer our customers comprehensive competence and customer solutions,” says team manager Marja Lehtonen.
Collaboration with technology suppliers and universities has enabled us to keep the equipment base at the top of the field. Research collaboration and renewal of the equipment base enable the development of methods and enables us to make new breakthroughs.
Two years ago, X-ray tomography equipment was acquired for the laboratory that can be used for 3D structural research of materials. The technology is the same as that used in tomography equipment for medical research. A 3D image is formed of a sample, which can then be interpreted with programs.
The method enables us to study the same piece again without destroying it. It also saves time and effort by allowing the pinpointing of the exact place in the sample where detailed investigation needs to be targeted. Tomography is opening up new possibilities in the research of geomaterials.
Moreover, Aalto University, GTK and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland will move to the new Circular Raw Materials Hub joint laboratory in November 2019. GTK’s research laboratory in Otaniemi, which consists of mineralogy and isotope geology laboratories, will be a part of this complex in the future.
Towards material wisdom
Most of the research services offered by GTK Mintec and the laboratories focus on primary materials. However, the range of work has become more and more varied, and work related to the circular economy has increased.
Today, a lot of secondary materials, such as ash, slag and dust, are sent for studies in addition to the traditional geological raw materials. For them, both the valuable material content and potential harmful substances need to be investigated. Both play a key role in potential utilisation either as raw materials or materials of the circular economy, for example, for earthworks.
“Material Wisdom” represents a new way of thinking. In a nutshell, it means that when a new primary deposit is submitted for study, the goal is to extract all useful material from it. The whole process is designed from the start from the point of view of comprehensive utilisation of the deposit, so that waste flows remain as low as possible.
“New thinking and material efficiency are also reflected in the reprocessing methods for tailings. Already disposed material in tailings ponds can be re-processed and valuable minerals extracted from it”, says Asse Marjasvaara, the manager in charge of business development.
GTK MINTEC IN A NUTSHELL
We have tailor-made services and powerful research tools to meet all the needs of our customers. We provide solutions and methods that promote sustainable and cost-effective mining. We offer comprehensive services from mineral exploration and implementation of the beneficiation process to the planning of the mine closure:
· Cutting-edge mineral processing know-how
· We process samples from all over the world
· Capacity up to 5 tons/h
· Automatic process control
· Extensive laboratory services
· All the tools for mineral processing
· We quantify the exact composition of your minerals
· State-of-the-art geoanalytical methods
· Data production for bankable feasibility studies
· Elemental distribution maps for geomaterials
· Tailings and water management
Our customer says:
“GTK Mintec can help mining companies in the different stages of surveys and studies that aim at the utilisation of deposits. High-quality mineralogical surveys carried out with modern tools provide the necessary information to plan beneficiation studies, which can be implemented on different scales, from laboratory tests to continuous pilot tests,” Pertti Lamberg, CEO of Keliber Oy.
Text: Kristina Karvonen