A New Approach to Rock Comminution

Rockburst Technologies Inc., a Vancouver, BC based subsidiary of Envisioning Labs Inc. is embarked on a rock-breaking mission that could ultimately take it to outer space. Transcritical CO2 Pulverization is a disruptive technology that re-examines the age-old process of crushing and grinding that precedes mineral beneficiation in the mining industry. In its simplest form, it uses pressurised CO2 to penetrate flaws in the rock, and fracture them under variations of temperature and pressure. The potential upsides are manifold: a reduction in the comminution energy required; less or no dependency on water; some selectivity for certain ore types on which it acts; accelerated sequestration of CO2 by mineralization; and no reliance on gravity – hence the interest in space applications.

BC Research worked with Rockburst to construct a new test prototype which incorporates a variety of new features desired in the study of the Transcritical CO2 Pulverization technology, notably the incorporation of liquid water into the process. The project included collaboration with the University of British Columbia’s Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering where Rockburst is performing all testing and laboratory work.

The phased project included a preliminary concept review of a possible commercial scale implementation of the proposed technology, and three possible design options for the test prototype at varying levels of complexity. For each of the three design options, a Class 5 capital cost estimate was compiled. A second phase refined this to a Class 3 (+/- 30%) estimate for the selected apparatus design and supply, plus all the required project documentation. A final design and construction phase led with a joint HAZOP study with Rockburst and UBC, before assembly of the system commenced. The new skid-mounted prototype was successfully commissioned at BC Research before delivery to UBC for the planned experimental testing campaign.