When some of the world’s top gold mines are coming to you for ground breaking technology, you know you have something precious in your hands.
The 100th unit of Mintek’s Cynoprobe version 3, which first started development in the 1990s, has just been sold to a mine in Mauritania (a country in West Africa bordering Algeria and Mali).
To understand what the Mintek Cynoprobe is, you have to understand how gold is extracted from the ore. Long ago, mercury was the chemical of choice in extracting gold, but the dangers of this element became too much for many companies. Although cyanide is dangerous to the environment in very large quantities, many mines have opted to use cyanide, as it was seen as a safer and more efficient alternative. Most companies have opted to comply with the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMI) which provides guidelines on how much cyanide can be released into the environment.
Cue Cynoprobe, which was developed to help mines reduce the environmental impact and optimise their gold extractions. To put it simply, “Cynoprobe is an online instrument that simplifies the process of measuring and monitoring the concentration of cyanide during the extraction of gold,” said Chris Hockaday, Head of Instruments in the Measurement and Control department at Mintek.
With the drive to reduce environmental impact gaining prominence through the widespread adoption of the ICMI in the early 2000’s, clients needed a cost effective machine that could measure both the free cyanide used to leach gold in their leach circuit as well as the environmental WAD (Weak Acid Dissociable) cyanide in their discharge, quickly and reliably, without incurring high running costs. Today, some 15 years later, the Cynoprobe is still the only instrument that can accomplish both these measurements in one easy to use machine.
The mines that are using the Cynoprobe are benefiting in two ways: “Mainly, large savings in process costs such as cyanide consumption due to the quicker sampling times allowing for better control; and more importantly, the mines can measure cyanide in their discharge process to ensure that the environment and the communities are protected,” said Hockaday.
It has been a long journey for the team that has developed the Cynoprobe Version 3. Due to the increasingly complex ore bodies being mined by gold companies, interferences encountered when using standard titration measurements demanded the development of an alternative accurate and robust measurement technique that could also be used to measure both free & WAD cyanide in one instrument. The first iteration of an instrument aimed at solving this complex measurement challenge was developed by Mintek’s engineers and scientists in the early 2000’s, followed by Version 2, 30 of which were sold commercially. The next generation Version 4 is in active development. In order to allow a wider set of mines to limit their cyanide use and environmental impact, Mintek has focussed on reducing the cost of the instrument to make the technology more accessible to smaller producers. “When companies approach us hoping that a Cynoprobe will solve some of their issues, we listen,” said Nathan Anthony, the group Commercial Coordinator, “In fact, we are working on improving on what the Cynoprobe can already do so that we stay abreast of industry needs.”
The widespread adoption of this unique instrument in gold mines across more than thirty countries is undeniable evidence that this team are world leaders in this type of technology.
“With this type of technology you have to keep on your toes,” said Hockaday, “We have other products in development and we plan to continue producing ground breaking solutions for the mining industry.”