Collaboration between Minerals to Metals and Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden

13 May 2016 - 09:45

Collaboration between UCT’s Minerals to Metals Signature theme and Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) strengthened by visit and signing of the MOU at UCT on 4th May.

The MOU signed between UCT and HZDR at UCT on 4th May 2016  acknowledges the alignment of the two institutions and provides the framework for collaboration between UCT’s Minerals to Metals Signature theme (MtM) and the Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology (HIF).

Professor Dee Bradshaw and Dean, Professor A. Lewis. Seated: Mr Roger Wallace,Senior Contracts Manager, UCT Innovation and Professor Markus Reuter, Director of HIF

HZDR is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a union of 18 research centres in Germany. The official mission of the Association is "solving the grand challenges of science, society and industry". At HIF research is focused on new technologies for the exploration, mining, and use of strategically important metals and minerals.  This fits well with UCT being committed to ensuring that research informs all its activities including teaching, learning and service to  the community,  advancing  and  disseminating  knowledge  that addresses  the key challenges facing society. 

The Minerals to Metals Research Initiative (MtM) is a well-established Signature Theme within UCT and includes the SARChI Chair in Minerals Beneficiation, currently held by Prof Dee Bradshaw, who is also Director of MtM. The mission of MtM is to integrate, enhance and expand existing capacity within minerals and related research groupings at UCT, with a view to facilitating sustainable development and utilisation of natural resources within the minerals industry. This is achieved through a combination of integrative, systemic projects (for example looking at economic-energy optimisation of the entire copper mineral to metal value chain) and fundamental research looking at physico-chemical processes in the context of mineral technology (for example characterising the effects of mineralogy and comminution method on the efficiency of heap leaching).

Seated: Professor Dee Bradshaw, Mr Roger Wallace, Professor Markus Reuter, Director of HIF and Professor A. Lewis (Dean). Standing: staff and students from Chemical Engineering who are involved in the collaboration.

Prof Reuter, in his joining of HIF as co-Director in 2015, formulated a vision for research in System Integrated Materials Production, at the heart of which lie the concepts of a circular materials economy. This concept which recognises that, in order to optimise material cycles, a comprehensive understanding and model of all process flows (from primary resource extraction, to beneficiation, to manufacture, to recycling to final disposal) is needed, associated with models of the relevant process technologies.

Prof Reuter named MtM as one of the few groupings world-wide with the skills and facilities to contribute meaningfully in this regard. His interest is especially in MtM’s focus on the mineral to metal value chain and its optimisation within the societal-environmental-economic context.  

The collaboration that has been established between HZDR and UCT will extend interdisciplinary research and promote regional and continental engagement in order to develop and generate new process knowledge and skills in the circular economy.   More specifically this collaboration aims to promote:

  • development of quantitative flow sheeting tools for metallurgical processes to integrate into broader economic/life-cycle models,
  • strategic metal recovery from post-consumer waste, and
  • the use of geo-metallurgical techniques to characterise primary and secondary metal resources for determining optimal process routes from a sustainability perspective.

We anticipate vigorous exchange on developing these joint projects and the associated expertise and skills, facilitated through regular visits, workshops and conferences.  It is also expected there will be joint publications in relevant high impact journals. 

In his visit to UCT, Professor Markus Reuter , presented a public seminar on Circular Economy Engineering and gave two workshops on the use of HSC chemistry as a modelling framework platform to evaluate both the technical and environmental implications of beneficiation systems.

"The first PhD student exchange is underway with Bruno Michaux, a PhD student from Markus Reuter at HIF, spending one month in Cape Town at UCT working with staff and students from the Minerals to Metals Signature theme as well as from the Centre for Minerals Research. His work focuses on modelling the impact of water quality in the mineral processes, a topic in line with Professor Reuter's vision of System Integrated Materials Production and with the expertise of the CMR. UCT Post doctoral fellow Dr Edson Charikinya is planning to spend one month in Freiberg later this year to work with the team there and continue the collaboration started with Bruno Michaux during his first stay in Cape Town."