ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Twenty-two years after opening, Newmont Goldcorp Corp.’s laboratory still is a unique facility providing recipes for gold, silver and copper processing, creating water quality improvements, providing ore analysis and much more for the company’s operations worldwide.
The Malozemoff Technical Facility in Englewood, Colo., specializes in three areas, according to Lauren Hafla, director of metallurgical services. The facility provides development work for prospective mines, operational support for existing operations, and research and development.
“We can custom-tailor recipes or scope to each of the mines,” she said.
The recipes are for the methods to process new ore, and there is flexibility to change course if a process method doesn’t work as well as expected, which “allows us to save costs and have more effective procedures,” Hafla said.
The projects “could be brownfields or greenfields (new properties). We do the test work at this facility,” said Deon Annandale, group executive for technical services for Newmont Goldcorp.
With the research and development over the years have come patents. Annandale said the patents are to protect Newmont property, rather than to sell to outsiders, although there is one leased patent.
For example, Newmont Goldcorp now has a patent on a carbon dioxide flotation process for certain gold ores. Instead of using air, which is the normal method, the process uses carbon dioxide. Equipment at the lab performs the patented process.
Annandale said so far there is a 15 percent improvement in gold recovery with this process.
Flotation separates mineral particles by treating them with chemicals in water, allowing minerals to adhere to bubbles and rise to the surface for removal.
Patented processes already in use at the Nevada mines have become part of the Nevada Gold Mines joint venture between Barrick Gold Corp. and Newmont Goldcorp, Annandale said. Barrick is the Nevada Gold Mines operator and owns 66.5 percent. Newmont owns 38.5 percent.
Nevada Gold Mines is an entity created to cover operations both companies owned in Nevada, and there is a separate management team and board for the joint venture.
“We are open to assist the JV and to do the work in this facility. They will need to contract with us. Everything was in flight when the deal was announced,” Annandale said. “It’s their choice. We’ve got a big chunk in the JV.”
Even as the joint venture, finalized July 1, was still in the planning stages, Newmont Mining Corp. and Goldcorp Corp. merged to create Newmont Goldcorp, and the lab facility now can be used to improve former Goldcorp operations.
“Yes, we will be getting in samples from the former Goldcorp properties to help improve the properties. That’s the advantage this facility brings,” said John Cole, who heads a specialist team.
Newmont Goldcorp President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Palmer said in the second-quarter earnings call that there will be at least two years and “possibly up to 36 months for some of these operations to really get them to the level of performance that we expect.”
Hafla said the facility team is “eager to begin executing testwork on our legacy Goldcorp properties as a means of extending the value we bring to our newest assets. We have already had extensive presence at the Peñasquito Mine fostering those new ties.”
Fifty percent of the lab’s research and development budget is used for collaborative efforts in partnership with universities and consortiums that may include suppliers and mining companies. The remainder is for in-house projects.
Closely knit team
Hafla said there are 35 employees at the facility, and “it’s a great team, very tight knit. A lot of us have worked together for a long time, and we have the opportunity to look at the global portfolio.”
She said that “the caliber of talent available to our sites through this facility, the excitement of executing R&D in-house and continually integrating new technologies and methods to our laboratory capabilities sets Newmont Goldcorp apart from the rest. What is truly unique, however, is our close relationship with the site personnel.
“We understand their resources because we have the in-house knowledge of these ore bodies through testing and continuous site presence. That is how we have advantage over most companies that use a de-centralized lab model,” Hafla said.
The facility holds onto the knowledge about all the ore bodies for future requests and keeps samples for many years. The focus is on gold, copper and silver.
“We have cold storage and regular storage,” Hafla said.
Most of the employees work on site, but a specialist team travels to mine sites “on a year-round basis to maximize gold production,” she said. They have expertise in hydrology, water treatment, flotation and crushing and grinding processes. “We have one person who literally focuses on flotation.”
Lab teams also travel to mine sites to train operators and do surveys of processing facilities to improve performance.
The laboratory has four departments. These are mineralogy, metallurgy, analytical, and water, waste and tailings, but the departments assist one another.
The experts work on a variety of projects, such as a new study that will be helping the Cripple Creek & Victor gold mine in Colorado “understand their future ore,” Hafla said.
Cripple Creek also continues sending ore concentrate to the railport in Elko County for processing at Carlin. Annandale said the shipments are part of a separate agreement with Nevada Gold Mines.
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Bags, barrels, buckets and boxes of ore sit in the facility’s warehouse awaiting work. Three visible barrels side by side came from sites in Africa, Australia and Colombia.
Newmont is helping with the Buritica gold project under development by Continental Gold in Colombia. Omar Jabara, group executive of public relations and executive communications for Newmont Goldcorp, said Newmont has a 19.9 percent interest in Continental Gold.
The facility will be doing testing for the Merian Mine in Suriname to provide confidence in the ore to be processed three years from now. Newmont operates that mine and owns 75 percent. The state holds 25 percent.
Similar tests are helping the Ahafo and Akyem mines in Ghana that Newmont owns, and Annandale said such work is “all about confidence,” so the company can tell the market what to expect from its operations.
The lab also is awaiting samples from Galore Creek in British Columbia, a gold, silver and copper project owned 50 percent by Newmont and 50 percent by Tech Resources Ltd. The lab will work under a contract with the project’s joint operating company.
“It’s a huge project. It is a lot of work,” Annandale said, explaining that beyond the Colorado lab, subcontractors will be hired for the project. “It’s for a prefeasibility study that will kick off next year.”
The 68,000-square-foot facility was named for the late Plato Malozemoff, a longtime Newmont executive who died in 1997. He was a metallurgist who set the stage for the first laboratory, commissioned in Danbury, Conn., in around 1957. The Englewood, Colo., facility replaced a smaller one in Salt Lake City.
The lab has been in the same spot since 1997, but there have been continual equipment updates and technical advancements.
For example, there is a miniature, continuous mode autoclave to test ore processing, allowing the lab to do the work that was once sent to a third party. Hafla said the lab used the autoclave for the Twin Creeks Mine in Nevada and will be testing with the autoclave on ore coming from the Yanacocha Mine in Peru.
New equipment also includes a digital optical microscope that can look at tiny sections of rock, send the images to a computer screen and “basically make maps of rocks,” said Jennifer Thogerson, a mineralogist in the lab.
The mineralogy department has a laser ablation inductively coupled plasma machine for elemental analysis of ore by atomizing and ionizing a sample. This is new as of last December and is capable of parts per billion detection of gold, according to Hafla.
There also is a mineral liberation analyzer.
“We also do age dating,” Thogerson said.
Dan Lopez, minerology and analytical manager, showed an X-ray diffraction machine during an August tour. The machine quantifies the minerals in an ore sample, providing the percentages.
“We can do it relatively quickly and cheap,” he said.
Lopez also uses a scanning electron microscope to look deeply into ore samples and classify hundreds of thousands of particles.
In the metallurgy department, the facility has lab-size mills, a lab-scale Knelson concentrator, gravity tables, flotation cells, bottle rolls and, new since last year, a bond rod and abrasion mill.
The lab’s water department can test water from a mine site or duplicate the exact water makeup to develop methods for cleaning the water of cyanide and other contaminants, usually as part of the reclamation process. The work may include remediation of acid pit lakes.
“At any given time, tests are running,” said Dan Snyder, an environmental scientist who explained that once processes are developed at the lab, they are then developed full-scale at a mine.
Equipment includes a reverse osmosis system, a skid-mounted bioreactor, utrafiltration equipment and membrane distillation. The membrane distillation was new last year as a treatment for lowering ammonia content. Ammonia is present in stripping solutions used to recover gold from carbon.
Once the lab develops treatments, they can be shared with all Newmont regions so water can meet or exceed local standards, Snyder said.
John Huddle has been an assayer for 33 years. He does gold pours in small quantities so mines can know how much gold is in their samples. In the pours, the silver and gold are with the lead at the bottom of the small containers. The slag comes out first after he removes the hot containers from the kiln.
“If there is a problem, they send it here,” he said, citing as an example samples from Cripple Creek where there is telluride in the ore. “That’s pretty rare.”
The lab doesn’t have gold laying around, however. The samples are small, and the portion that is gold when Huddle fires up a batch usually can’t be seen by the naked eye.
“The gold is very tiny, less than a 10th of a milligram,” he said.
He is in the analytical department, which has inductively coupled plasma and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry equipment, as well as atomic adsorption and carbon sulfur machines.
A fact sheet on the Colorado facility states that one competitive advantage for Newmont Goldcorp is the expertise in comminution, flotation, hydrometallurgy, and water, waste and tailings.
Comminution is reducing ore to minute particles or fragments. Flotation is separating mineral particles by treatment in water, and hydrometallurgy is the leaching of metallic compounds to form a solution from which they can be recovered. Water treatment research supports water balancing, including acid pit lake remediation, metal removal and tailing stability.
Hafla said the facility has a full suite of comminution equipment that allows the team to complete work in-house to provide scheduling flexibility and keep knowledge of an ore body within Newmont Goldcorp.