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Molten Salts Crack Multimetal Recovery

28 Apr 2023

Start-up mineral processing company Vinca Technologies offers an entirely fresh approach to achieve safer, cleaner, more sustainable metal extraction by means of its ground-breaking nontoxic, non-aqueous molten salt cleantech metal recovery process.

Vinca’s process has already attained 3 US-granted patents during 2021/2022 and has been recognised with a number of Start-up and Innovation Awards by the Mineral Processing Industry. The technology originated from the University of Arizona’s solar energy chemistry department.

Vinca’s vision is to become ‘The 3rd Force in Metallurgy’ - the metal extraction process of choice for all new precious/base metal ore developments by 2030, being designed to replace existing Hydrometallurgical and Pyrometallurgical solutions for the extraction of multiple critical precious and base metals simultaneously from polymetallic ore bodies by repurposing all waste back into the Circular Economy. Accordingly, Vinca aims to solve five key industry and geopolitical dilemmas:

  • Delivering responsible upstream cleantech metal sourcing (thereby reducing the scale of impact and improving social licence to operate engagements)

  • Turning metal recovery gases, liquids and solid waste streams into saleable Circular Economy re-useable product

  • Re-shoring skill, value and supply chain control back into the hands of mineral-hosting Economies

  • Offsetting critical mineral supply shortages by reducing time to market and unlocking ‘trapped value’ orebody complexity

  • Solving the geology / processing dilemma of recovering full economic value for multiple metals from complex polymetallic orebodies.

The process removes toxic emissions, lowers energy consumption, reduces water use, and

lowers capex & opex, all key process sustainability benefits. By reducing the scale of impact for metal recoveries, Vinca hopes to help miners improve their community engagements & enable easier permitting pathways, providing faster market entry for miners

and metal processors.

Vinca’s molten salts perform the role of ‘metal carriers’. The salts co-join with the metals, during the concentrate leaching phase, to create a series of metal chloride complexes. The metals are then unloaded from the salts during an electrolysis phase, creating a high purity mixed-metal cathode, ready for separating into individual metals for industrial use. The salts can be re-used again and again in future recovery cycles. Any solid waste materials (such as silicates & other oxides, e.g. CaO, Al2 O3, etc.) are filtered out as dry, inert waste materials which can be re-purposed into construction aggregate.

Vinca is the first and only metal recovery technology to crack the use of non-toxic molten salts to extract multiple metals simultaneously and safely from precious-containing polymetallic sulphide concentrates (both single/double refractory), by harnessing salt eutectics and the thermodynamic differences between insoluble sulphides and soluble chloride complexes. Further, since Vinca is a non-aqueous leaching process, none of the typical sulphur passivation interference issues of other leaching recovery methods are encountered. Also, being non metal-selective, it handles polymetallic orebody complexities across precious and base, single and double, refractory sulphides (or oxides where banned) without adopting complex, wasteful and harmful recovery process steps. Vinca offers fast residence times (<10 hrs) and high recoveries (>95%) for critical precious and base metals, and deploys the same simple standardised flow sheet steps regardless.

Vinca’s next milestone is to bolt-on the other industrial flow sheet elements to prove they can combine together at lab scale, before moving on to pilot plant design engineering, as well as validating commercialisation costings. Having validated the technology at Pilot scale, Vinca will then seek a commercial JV relationship with a miner to build its first commercial-scale demonstration plant. Vinca CEO Melinda Moore previously worked as Chief Commercial Officer for Sydvaranger, whilst Head Chemist Dr Hassan Elsentriecy, Vinca’s inventor, previously helped drive the US University of Arizona research into solar power applications, funded by the US Department of Energy.

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