A CSIRO-developed device will be rolled out on mine sites following a recent agreement. 

Metso Outotec has signed a partnership agreement with CSIRO to provide SwirlFlow technology to alumina refineries.

Metso Outotec and Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, have signed a global exclusive cooperation agreement on the delivery of the SwirlFlow agitation technology for the bauxite and alumina sector outside of China.

SwirlFlow is an agitator for mixing tanks in mineral processing plants. The technology will be used in the refinery precipitation tanks at mine sites. 

Large mixing tanks are used in the minerals processing industry to provide various continuous hydrometallurgical processes such as leaching (digestion), precipitation, adsorption, oxidation, tailings washing and neutralisation. 

Typically, single or multiple impellers with vertical baffles inside these tanks are used for mixing and to create suspensions of solid materials.

Traditional long-shaft agitators are expensive and difficult to clean during maintenance shutdowns. They can also bog in solids that have settled on the bottom of the tank. These issues lead to losses of production and high maintenance costs.

SwirlFlow has significantly lower capital and operating costs compared to traditional agitation systems, cutting installation costs by up to a third.

The device incorporates a short shaft and a novel impeller design to create a tornado-like vortex flow. As it incorporates a short shaft, SwirlFlow does not bog in settled solids and is easier to clean. This reduces down-time and maintenance costs. 

Furthermore, SwirlFlow can achieve the same mixing performance as traditional agitators with lower power consumption, further reducing operating costs.

“Sustainability is a top priority for Metso Outotec. In addition to our own investments to develop technology for sustainable alumina processing, we are pleased to be able to announce our cooperation with CSIRO. This will allow us to meet our customers’ growing demand such as lower capital installation, reduced spare parts costs and increase in precipitation tank availability,” says Dr Alessio Scarsella, Director of Light Metals at Metso Outotec.

“CSIRO’s leading technology in SwirlFlow agitation has been pioneered at a tier one refinery precipitation tanks, leading to significantly reduced maintenance costs and improved operational time between descaling events,” says Andrew Jenkin, Research Program Director for Processing at CSIRO.