Ciencias e Ingeniería, Investigación, Orgullo PUCP
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PUCP researchers obtained an invention patent over technology that recovers gold from unexploited deposits

Three researchers from the Mining Engineering Section of PUCP obtained the invention patent from Indecopi to create a technology process that increases the extraction of gold from minerals, e.g. auriferous arsenical pyrite. Granted until 2035, the patent will allow to protect the intellectual property and exclusive trade of this technology that contributes to the development of mining sector.

Autor: Fiorella Palmieri
Investigadores PUCP obtuvieron patente de invención por tecnología que recupera el oro de yacimientos no explotados

Eng. Manuel Shishido, Dr. Adolfo Pillihuamán and Dr. Edmundo Alfaro are professors and researchers from our Mining Engineering Section and creators of a new technology for gold extraction.

Extracting gold from certain ores may be a difficult task and, sometimes, impossible with the current technology in the mining sector. However, the field of applied research is able to respond to this type of challenges. We present you the Invention Patent of Utility Model –as a proof– that was granted by Indecopi upon the process created by Dr. Edmundo Alfaro, Dr. Adolfo Pillihuamán and Eng. Manuel Shishido, experienced metallurgical engineers, professors and researchers of our Mining Engineering Section.

The project is entitled “Hydrometallurgical process for gold recovery from arsenical refractory ores, passivation and disposal of waste”, the results of which were presented in 2015 to the Intellectual Property Office (OPI) of PUCP to be evaluated by Indecopi.

One of the findings of the project was to achieve a sustainable treatment for arsenic through a process with calcium carbide. With this method, it will be possible to extract from 7 to 10 grams of gold per ton of mineral, a quantity higher than what is possible to obtain from other minerals containing 1 gram of gold per ton.

As usual, the regulatory body took five years to evaluate this project rigorously. Finally, this year a resolution was sent to announce the grant of the patent, which will be protected until 2035.

“In Peru, every time better conditions are given to undertake research activities, favored by the government entities and PUCP in particular, through activities that promote research by professors. This conjunction of conditions is suitable to undertake any type of research that is a contribution to the society itself”, expressed Dr. Edmundo Alfaro.

In 2016, the researchers were rewarded with the bronze medal in the 44th International Exhibition of Inventions – Geneva.

Brilliant Project

Winner of the first place in the 14th Peruvian Contest of Inventions organized by Indecopi (2015), and rewarded with the bronze medal in the International Exhibition of Inventions – Geneva (2016), the process invented by our professors has extensive influence over its implementation in the industry.

 

At present, this process allows to extract 30% of gold present in the auriferous arsenical pyrite, a refractory ore that is not exploited nowadays. “Within the context of mining, we have gold-bearing mineral deposits that are not exploited because it is not possible to process them as their associations with arsenic harm the environment. One of them is auriferous arsenical pyrite, which may contain up to 30 grams of gold per ton”, explains Dr. Adolfo Pillihuamán.

In Peru, every time better conditions are given to undertake research activities, favored by the government entities and PUCP in particular, through activities that promote research by professors. This conjunction of conditions is suitable to undertake any type of research that is a contribution to the society itself».

Dr. Edmundo Alfaro

Professor and researcher of the Department of Engineering

One of the findings of the project was to achieve a gold mineral treatment with arsenic through a process with calcium carbide. With this method, it will be possible to extract higher quantities of gold from refractory ores than what is achieved with traditional hydrometallurgical processes. This would be a significant factor for mining companies.

“The highest contribution is to have obtained a hydrometallurgical process that is able to treat arsenic contained in ores. Previously, it was difficult to control this pollutant compound with pyrometallurgical processes. Now, this project has a great potential due to its simple implementation in extractive plants”, says Eng. Manuel Shishido.

Within the context of mining, we have gold-bearing minerals that are not exploited because it is not possible to process the arsenic without harming the environment. One of them is auriferous arsenical pyrite, which may contain up to 30 grams of gold per ton».

Dr. Adolfo Pillihuamán

Professor and researcher of the Department of Engineering

Projection in the future

However, researchers deemed necessary to make improvements in their project to trade it at industrial level. Its main objective is to achieve a process to extract 90% of gold present in the auriferous arsenical pyrite. They may also conduct more experiments that would allow to extract other metals, for instance, copper from other ores. For this, they need to conduct more laboratory experiments and have access to other sources of financing.

The highest contribution is to have obtained a hydrometallurgical process that is able to treat arsenic contained in ores. Previously, it was difficult to control this pollutant compound with pyrometallurgical processes. Now, this project has a great potential due to its simple implementation in extractive plants».

Eng. Manuel Shishido

Professor and researcher of the Department of Engineering

For the time being, this work has been temporarily suspended due to the situation of COVID-19. However, they look forward to continuing this project when physical work is reestablished in the University.

“The project requires active experimentation in the metallurgical laboratory, as there is no other way of evaluating an action response to reagents and operational variables on the auriferous ores. We keep continuously exploring bibliography and identifying mineralized areas wherein the process can be applied”, added Dr. Alfaro.

Keys for understanding this project:

  • Auriferous arsenical pyrite is not exploited at industrial level because of its high content of arsenic. At present, any extraction method harms the environment.
  • This ore may contain high content of gold (up to 30 grams per ton) compared to other ores.
  • The process patented by PUCP professors achieves to safely extract up to 30% of gold from auriferous arsenical pyrite.
  • For this research to be applied commercially, it is necessary to continue with the studies and laboratory tests. It is expected to recover 90% of gold present in the arsenical pyrite.
  • To work on this finding, this research –completed in 2015- received financing of S/300,000 from FINCyT.

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