Cyanide solutions for the world

PERTH firm Occtech Engineering has embarked on an ambitious expansion phase in the lead up to a public float scheduled for later this year.

New investors have ploughed-in $1.2 million via a share placement for a 25 per cent stake in the business through a deal that is expected to be finalised late next month.

It is hoped the additional monies will help propel the company, founded in 1986 by Peter McIntosh, into a public entity, as well as fund a research and development program for its new patented water treatment and cyanide retention technology.

The new cyanide technology, in particular, excites Mr McIntosh because it places the company, which until now has focused primarily on providing desalination plants, in an industry worth an estimated $1 billion globally.

The latest hybrid membrane technology, called CyanoMemSep, uses a new membrane separation process to recover sodium cyanide. The technology is already operating at the Ticor manufacturing plant in Gladstone and will be installed at the soon to be commissioned CSBP Wesfarmers cyanide manu-facturing plant at Kwinana.

Occtech is also developing CyanoFree, a hybrid electrow membrane technology suitable for the gold industry, with the assistance of a Federally funded $1.1 million research and development grant.

Mr McIntosh said that, despite being up to 15 per cent cheaper in capital and running costs during the life of the plant than storing the cyanide, the treatment plant also provided environmental benefits, as it removed the need to build evaporative cyanide dams.

The CyanoFree technology will be used for the recovery of cyanide lost to copper or zinc contamination in mineral extraction processes

“The presence of copper or similar metals can cause a significant increase in cyanide consumption,” Mr McIntosh said.

“The copper-cyanide species accumulates during gold processing, effectively as an inactive species.

“Eventually it has to be purged from the circuit, causing losses and requiring environmental holding ponds.

“This is a significant problem for about 20 per cent of the world’s gold producers.”

The recovered cyanide can be reused by mining companies at their gold leaching plants.

However, the biggest environmental advantage would be that it would reduce the inventory of copper cyanide that had to be retained in tailing ponds, Mr McIntosh said.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation has been another to use Occtech engineering for the treatment of low-level radioactive waste.

ANSTO senior process engineer Geoff Tapsell said the technology wrapped a number of advanced water treatment technologies into one package.

“This will allow ANSTO to further improve its own environmental per-

formance as well as helping to design bet-

ter and more environmentally-friendly processes for other organisations,” he said.

Bendigo Mining NL has taken delivery of a $1 million water plant to deal with high levels of heavy metal and arsenic that sits in underground mines under the Bendigo town-site.

During the first phase of operation, 1.66 million litres of day will need to be extracted and processed by the water treatment facility. With the next two or three years, Bendigo had contracted Occtech to supply an additional $7 million in plant that will extend throughput to up to 12 million litres per day, discharging the recycled, clean water into the local river streams.

Mr McIntosh said the company was also working alongside other companies in search of a solution to the environmental challenges Alcoa faced at its Wagerup Alumina refinery plant in the State’s South West.

With orders flowing in, Mr McIntosh expects revenue for the next year to surpass $10 million.

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