The Centre for Minerals Research (CMR) at the University of Cape Town is a multi-disciplinary, inter-departmental Research Centre based in the Department of Chemical Engineering, with close collaboration with groups in the Department of Physics, Mechanical Engineering and the Centre for Research into Computational and Applied Mechanics (CERECAM). The Centre originated as a research group in 1980 and became formally recognized as a Research Unit in the 1990s. In 2006 the Unit was accredited by the University as a Research Centre. In 2012 this accreditation was re-instated.
The Centre began as a small research group in the early 1980s and focused mainly on the chemistry of the flotation process. With time the research expanded to areas such as the role of reagent interactions, the effect of the froth phase and investigation of novel flotation cells. In the early 1990s a strong activity in the area of comminution began. A key development during the 1990s was the Centre entering into a highly successful joint research venture with the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC) at the University of Queensland as part of the AMIRA P9 project. The P9 project is the world’s largest and longest running university-based mineral processing research project and led to a period of rapid growth for the Centre. In the mid-2000s research in the Centre was significantly strengthened by the development of a strong process mineralogy activity. In 2006, the University recognised the research group as a Centre, which is now known as the Centre for Minerals Research (CMR). The Centre has a complement of 30 staff, 35-45 postgraduate students, has extensive support from leading mining companies, an international reputation for its research and strong links with research institutions globally.
The Centre for Minerals Research conducts research in the areas of comminution, classification, froth flotation and process mineralogy. Comminution research includes conventional crushers, high pressure grinding rolls, tumbling mills, roller mills, stirred mills and circuit modelling. Classification research includes cyclones, dry and wet screens. Flotation research includes flotation chemistry, flotation cells, flotation froths and circuit simulation. Process mineralogy research includes mineralogical textural descriptors and alteration processes. Approximately 40% of research is conducted within laboratories, 40% on either pilot or industrial plants and 20% by computational methods. The overall purpose of this research is:
“The development of multicomponent models, methodologies and heuristics for the design, integrated simulation and optimization of mineral processing concentrators”.
Design, simulation or optimization involves developing a flowsheet within simulation software, populating this with relevant multicomponent process models, model fitting and calibrating the simulation to experimental survey data and using this to design or optimize process performance. The focus of the Centre is almost exclusively on concentrators employing the separation process of froth flotation, but may include other separation methods. Research is conducted within the battery limits of ore from the pit/mine until production of final concentrate, but includes research within geometallurgy. The research activities of the Centre are supported by a strong technology transfer group (MPTech) responsible for translating research outcomes into process improvement.