ColdBlock to launch 'digestion' technology despite facing hurdles
By Susan Taylor
TORONTO, March 3 (Reuters) - Canadian start-up ColdBlock Technologies Inc will launch its new 'digestion' technology on Wednesday that cuts the time to test mineral samples to minutes from hours, innovation experts say is long overdue in a mining industry often resistant to change.
ColdBlock, which did development work with the government, academia and Barrick Gold, will launch the technology at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto.
The process simplifies and accelerates the analysis of gold, silver and base metals samples, said Peter Kondos, head of technology solutions at Barrick, the world's biggest gold producer.
"If this technology proves valuable, then we will equip our technology center, as well as our analytical labs in our operations throughout the world with these instruments," Kondos said.
The 10-minute to 15-minute process uses short-wave infrared radiation to rapidly heat sample particles, which quickly dissolves, or digests, the solids into an acid solution for analysis. A decades-old hot block process, in contrast, heats the acid solution to dissolve the sample, which takes hours.
Because the new technology uses less acid, it has lower operating and capital costs, and productivity can improve because the process can be automated, the company said, though it did not specify the amount of savings a user would accrue through by using the process.
Even though new technology typically produces savings for miners over time, it requires up-front capital which the companies are reluctant to commit amid an industry downturn that is stretching into its fourth year.
Also, because miners face a raft of risks outside their control - everything from extreme weather to political turmoil - they typically avoid uncertainty, such as untested technologies. Continued...