Courtesy of Alun Price Jones

When Alun Price Jones submitted a description of the Injection Hoisting System his company had created to the “Shark Tank”-style Disrupt Mining contest at the 2017 PDAC convention, he did not anticipate the interest and response that would follow.

“The sponsors were trying to highlight innovation in mining,” explained Price Jones, who was pleasantly surprised to hear a week later that his pitch had made it to the final round. “Then, low and behold, we were awarded joint first prize at the event.” Cementation Canada split the $1 million prize with Kore Geosystems Inc. It also won several cash prizes from individual judges and took home the $50,000 People’s Choice Award.

The Injection Hoisting System incorporates several existing technologies to move ore from deep mine excavations to the surface using a continuous, slurry-filled pipeline loop. The individual elements in the system are not original ideas, but, used in combination, the pump-driven system forms a patented new methodology for moving material from deep mine development to the surface.

“We realised there was a means of moving material other than with hoists or fleets of trucks,” said Price Jones, who has overseen research and development at Cementation since he transferred to the Canadian arm of the company in 2002. Switching a mine from traditional truck transport to an injection hoisting system would reduce capital and operating costs, he explained. With fewer trucks underground, less energy would need to be spent on ventilation, cutting costs through increased energy efficiency.

Alun Price Jones of Cementation Canada explains how they have re-imagined how mine shafts could be developed.

Price Jones, a civil engineer by training, was inspired by practices used in the deep drilling sector. He has experience with oilfield-type drill rigs from a previous role in the UK investigating deep geological nuclear containment repositories, and realised it was possible to assemble the same equipment for injection hoisting “in a way that’s never been done before.”

Although systems already exist to transport rock slurry through pipelines, “The particular challenge was to raise rock material through a significant vertical height through a pipeline system,” he said. The solution is to use high-pressure, hydraulically-driven piston pumps to inject the crushed rock slurry into the continuous flow system. Cementation Canada started looking at the problem about four years ago and submitted the initial patent application in 2015.

After winning the Disrupt Mining contest at PDAC, Cementation Canada has been contacted by several mining companies interested in the system and plans are underway to identify a site to install a demonstration system to prove the methodology at a larger scale.

Next: The hypemaster
George Salamis, Executive chairman at Integra Gold