The Steps to an ISR Project

In the right geological setting, ISR allows the profitable recovery of metals from known, but undeveloped ore-bodies where conventional mining methods are constrained by economic, social, and environmental factors.

These are known as Stranded Mineral Assets

An example would be historic mine sites which still have economic concentrations of mineral deposits but where communities have grown up around them, thus making it difficult for conventional mining.

The initial step in the ISR process is to conduct a desktop review of:-

  1. The Geology
  2. The Social License 
  3. The Economics

As with any project, the proximity to sensitive areas (farms and towns etc.) means a staged process of continual community engagement with key stakeholders coupled with positive technical outcomes along the way, equals a successful ISR mine.

Once all the above is taken into consideration the development of an ISR project proceeds through the stages shown below:-

Stage 1:- Laboratory testing

Measurement of the grade and metallurgical characteristics of the target minerals in the ore body, often from existing core samples, will show if effective extraction by the lixiviants can occur in the laboratory.

Important baseline environmental water studies are also undertaken, not only to analyse for minerals but other contaminants.

Decision point to progress the project.

Stage 2:- Hydrogeological Studies

If lab testing proves positive, in field hydrogeological studies test the underground flow.

Important parameters, like transmissivity (rate of groundwater flow), flow directions, water pumping rates and drawdown all influence the efficency of an ISR project. This step can take a number of months to complete.

Decision point to progress the project.

Stage 3:- Field Recovery Trial or FRT

FRT is a living lab application of a small scale operation to test the above stages, using a limited number of injection and extraction wells. The FRT will test if the target mineral species (e.g. copper) can be extracted in real world conditions. 

Decision point to progress the project to full scale production.

 

*Please note that all of the decisions outlined above take into account not only the economics but also the community and regulatory approvals.

 

More about Environmental Copper Recovery