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Technology to maximise gold extraction wins at Curtin Innovation Awards

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— 2014 winners announced —

A meter that maximises gold extraction has taken top prize at the 2014 Curtin Commercial Innovation Awards, in a year where the winners showcased new ways to improve productivity in industry and education.

Adjunct Professor, Bill Staunton and his team won first prize with a carbon meter that enables metallurgists to optimise the gold extraction process, reducing costs, increasing efficiency and ultimately improving yields.

Director of Curtin’s Office of IP Commercialisation, Rohan McDougall, said the simplicity of the new technique and ability for continuous testing meant a previously labour intensive and often inaccurate process could soon be obsolete.

“Instead of sampling a litre of carbon from the top of a one million litre tank, this approach automates the process, measuring 20 litre samples regularly throughout the day, making it less labour intensive and much more accurate,” Mr McDougall said.

“The prototype is currently being trialled in Victoria and we are looking to market the technology to gold mines worldwide in the near future.”


There were four other winners which took out prize categories in this year’s awards: a system to help university graduates find job placements; a tool to train health sciences students in dealing empathetically with patients; a method for creating gourmet fishcakes from processed crab waste and a device to collect quality geological data as part of exploratory drilling programs.

“This year the winners definitely had a focus on increasing productivity – whether that was in obtaining minerals exploration data, better use of waste products or improving the way we work with people,” Mr McDougall said.

“The Autonomous Sonde, which won the Science and Engineering Prize, is a great example because it collects high-quality data which previously could only be collected with expensive equipment and specialised staff.

“The Curtin Business School Prize winner showed a very different approach to productivity, by providing a more effective method of sourcing graduates that have the specific traits that an employer is seeking.”

Mr McDougall said health was also a focus, with both the Health Sciences Prize and Innovation in Education Prize offering innovation for the health industry.

“Creating gourmet fishcakes from processed crab waste is quite a feat, and it shows the sort of quality we can expect in the project’s next phase, where they aim to produce tasty, nutritious and easy to digest meals for hospitals and aged care facilities.

“Finally, the Empathy Simulator was a stand-out training tool, which provides a cost-effective way for health students to master essential but tricky interpersonal skills, like breaking bad news to patients.”

The Curtin Commercial Innovation Awards were established in 2007 and aim to identify new technologies, products or services arising from research at Curtin.

Prizes for this year totalled some $35,000 in cash and commercialisation services provided by the award’s sponsors. Previous winners have gone on to successfully raise capital and result in new products and services that benefit the community


Notes to Editor

Further information on the prize winners:

First Prize: Mr Bill Staunton, Ms Teresa McGrath and Professor Jacques Eksteen

Mr Bill Staunton and his team from the Curtin Western Australian School of Mines developed a simple and robust carbon meter to improve the amount of gold extracted through the widely-used Carbon-in-Pulp extraction process. This process relies on dissolved gold absorbing onto activated carbon in large, one million litre process tanks. Currently the carbon concentration isn’t well monitored or controlled, with measurements taken using a labour intensive and often inaccurate process of sampling one litre from the top of the tank. This winning device instead automatically measures a 20 litre sample regularly throughout the day, providing vastly improved data from which metallurgists can optimise the process more effectively, reducing costs, using carbon more efficiently and reducing the amount of gold lost to waste.

Science and Engineering Prize: Associate Professor Anton Kepic, in collaboration with Gordon Stewart, Brett Wilkinson and Professor Christian Dupuis

Associate Professor Kepic and his team have developed the Autonomous Sonde; a small shuttle-like device that drilling staff can use to collect down-hole geological data when drilling in minerals exploration. It uses sensors to analyse the surrounding rock as it is raised from the depths of the borehole, collecting data that far surpasses the traditional method of extracting a narrow core from the earth. Similar analysis has previously been obtained using wire-line techniques, but the expensive equipment and supervision by technical staff often makes the costs prohibitive for minerals exploration. Associate Professor Kepic’s Autonomous Sonde means mineral exploration teams could now have access to quality information in less time and reduced cost.

Curtin Business School Prize: Dr Peter Dell working in conjunction with the Business Development team from the Chamber of Commerce


Dr Peter Dell and his team have created an improved recruitment system for businesses to meet their internship and graduate recruitment needs. Businesses currently struggle through time consuming and ineffectual talent identification after receiving hundreds or thousands of applicants from sites such as SEEK, with little differentiation between student resumes. This new, proactive system uses information provided by universities to allow industry to “headhunt” individual students with desired attributes, including both technical achievements and softer traits such as communications skills and teamwork.

Health Sciences Prize: Dr Janet Howieson (Curtin) and Mr Peter Jecks from Abacus Fisheries

Dr Janet Howieson and Mr Peter Jecks have developed a more sustainable process to design and produce products from the waste created from processing seafood. Processing seafood is currently very inefficient, with 50-70 per cent of the caught weight going to waste – amounting to more than 10,000 tonnes per year in Australia alone. Instead of going to landfill or being made into low-cost products such as fertiliser and pet food, Curtin researchers have found ways to meet the needs of niche consumer markets, in a cost-efficient way at industrial scale. Using waste from blue swimmer crabs, they’ve created and produced crabcakes which have been sold to high-end restaurants and delicatessens. The next phase is to extend to finfish, and to produce nutritious, easy to digest meals for hospitals and aged care facilities.

Innovation in Education Prize: Dr Janet Beilby

Dr Janet Beilby has developed the Empathy Simulator, which provides a cost-effective way for students in the health field to practice and master essential interpersonal and rapport-building skills. With more and more students entering the health field but fewer clinical placements available for training, this new technology helps to ensure a standard level of training not currently offered. It will ensure students are better prepared for situations such as breaking bad news to patients and managing their confusion and distress.

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