Canadian Mining Innovation Council wins Crush It! Challenge

CanMicro was selected as one of six finalists in the Crush It! Challenge before ultimately winning the grand prize. Courtesy of CMIC.

The Canadian Mining Innovation Council (CMIC) was announced as the long-awaited winner of Natural Resources Canada’s Crush It! Challenge on June 13, earning it the $ 5 million grand prize for its microwave technology.

The challenge was looking for energy-saving innovation in the crushing and grinding of rocks, or comminution, which is among the most energy-intensive processes in the mining industry. CMIC devised CanMicro, its cleantech solution, by combining microwave-assisted comminution and multi-sensor ore sorting to achieve over 35 percent energy savings across many different commodities, exceeding challenge guidelines.

The project was designed to expose copper, nickel and gold ores to high-power microwave radiation at large particle sizes (up to 150 millimeters), creating micro-factures along grain boundaries to reduce ore competence and increase mineral liberation after grinding. The generation of a thermal signature also was meant to facilitate ore sorting so that only those containing value minerals would be subjected to fine grinding. CanMicro was created with a high-powered multi-mode microwave system in mind to allow scaling-up at levels of throughput above 1,000 tonnes per hour, as required by the needs of the industry.

Related: New technologies are on the horizon to help miners process minerals more efficiently using less energy

The Crush It! Challenge was launched in 2018 as part of the federal government’s Impact Canada Initiative, receiving 65 applications. Six finalists were advanced to the final round in 2019, receiving up to $ 800,000 to build and test their solutions. While the announcement of the winner was delayed, previously planned for the summer of 2021, the commercialization process for CanMicro is already under way.

The CanMicro team was spearheaded by Erin Bobicki, associate professor at the University of Alberta, as its technical lead, with Sepro Mineral Systems and Glencore Canada involved as project participants as well as COREM, Queens University, Kingston Process Metallurgy (KPM) and the Saskatchewan Research Council as subject matter experts.

“I want to congratulate the Canadian Mining Innovation Council for their impressive CanMicro technology,” said Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson. “Our government is pleased to support initiatives such as this through the Impact Canada Challenges.”

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