Geometallurgy Program

Since 2013, the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources and the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering at the University of Arizona have integrated existing research capabilities with new hires and new analytical resources to form the Mineral Processing Research Group. The team includes Dr. Jinhong Zhang, the Freeport-McMoRan Chair in Mineral Processing and flotation expert; Dr. Brent Hiskey, longtime UA professor in extractive metallurgy and former Kennecott metallurgist; Dr. Jaeheon Lee, associate professor in mining engineering and former extractive metallurgist for Barrick Gold and Newmont Mining, and Dr. Isabel Barton, a geologist and IMR research scientist focusing on mineral and material characterization.

With expertise in a variety of analytical and characterization techniques and in processing types ranging from roasting and smelting to grinding, flotation, and leaching, the mineral processing group has taken on a diverse array of research projects in gold, copper, iron, and molybdenum extraction, among others. Some of the current foci are:

  • flotation testing and optimizing flotation circuits for hard-to-separate minerals
  • mineralogical analysis and process design and optimization for different ore types developing new and more efficient hydrometallurgical techniques using bacterially mediated leaching
  • characterizing material surfaces and hydrophobicity by atomic force microscopy (AFM)
  • finding new ways to put millions of tons of mine tailings, fly ash, and other mine waste products to use as construction material (link to Jinhong’s fly ash company here?)
  • developing analytical techniques for rapid, quantitative measurement of trace element concentrations in minerals by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS)
  • sampling studies and sampling method design.

A constant theme of research is working with industry partners to investigate and solve ongoing recovery problems in operating gold, copper, and molybdenum mines.

The world-class processing expertise is matched with the UA’s superb analytical resources, including optical and scanning electron microscopes (SEM), electron microprobe, field-emission scanning electron microscope (FE-SEM), transmission electron microscope (TEM), powder and single-crystal X-ray diffractometers (XRD), X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (XRF), laser ablation inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometer (LA-ICP-MS), atomic force microscope (AFM), and Raman and short-wave infrared spectrometers.

For more information contact Dr. Jaeheon Lee.