£6m Rio Tinto Centre for Emergent Technologies opens at The University of Nottingham

  Rio Tinto launches new 6m research centre at The University of Nottingham
03 Dec 2013 15:04:47.107

The University of Nottingham and Rio Tinto have agreed a £6 million, five year partnership to deliver the next generation of innovative technologies for the mining industry.

The Rio Tinto Centre for Emergent Technologies opened today and is a new centre of excellence which will develop world-changing technologies to address issues related to energy efficiency, waste reduction, capital productivity, extension of resource life and process and operator safety.

Global demand for minerals has grown dramatically in recent years, particularly in emerging markets. This has necessitated the exploitation of deeper mines in more remote locations, which in turn has intensified the need for safer, more environmentally-friendly and cost-effective processing methods. 

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World-class experimental facilities
At The University of Nottingham, research in this area has expanded significantly, with the securing of major research grants and investment in world-class experimental facilities, including some of the largest materials processing systems found anywhere in the world.

Rio Tinto began its Mine of the Future™ programme in 2008 with the aim to create next generation technology to improve efficiency, lower costs, and enhance health, safety and environmental performance.  A key element has been the development of strong partnerships with leading universities across the world, including The University of Nottingham. 

Engineers at the University will be carrying out research focused on new ways of separating ores based on the properties of individual rocks, meaning that waste material with no valuable minerals contained within it, can be rejected prior to energy intensive further processing.

Reducing energy and waste
Researchers will also be focusing on how the huge energy costs associated with crushing and grinding rocks for metal extraction can be reduced, as well as increasing the recovery of valuable minerals, thereby ensuring less waste is produced from the process, higher metal recoveries are produced and all at a lower energy cost.

The Faculty of Engineering at The University of Nottingham has a long history of working with Rio Tinto across a number of sectors, including improving the efficiency of rock breakage through electromagnetic processing, reducing the environmental impact of mining operations and improving the efficiency of mineral separation processes.

As a result of these previous successful collaborations, Rio Tinto has now agreed to establish the new Centre at the University, which will receive the £6m funding over the next five years.

Solving key technical challenges
Preston Chiaro, Group Executive, Technology and Innovation, Rio Tinto, said: “The partnership with The University of Nottingham will ensure that Rio Tinto can solve some of the key technical challenges facing mining in the future. Our aim is to always work with the best research groups in the world, and Nottingham is an obvious partner.”

The Rio Tinto Centre for Emergent Technologies pulls together academic staff and researchers from disciplines across Engineering, including leading experts in process design, materials characterisation, numerical modelling and simulation and materials testing.

Professor Sam Kingman, Research Director of the Rio Tinto Centre for Emergent Technologies, said:  “This truly multi-disciplinary partnership with Rio Tinto will enable the delivery of significant tangible outputs that have the potential to provide a step change in the performance and productivity of Rio Tinto’s operations. It will also provide a real focus for our activities here at The University of Nottingham through provision of a clear pathway to deliver quantifiable impact from our research.”

Developing new and innovative technologies
Speaking about the new centre, Professor Chris Rudd, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for External Engagement at The University of Nottingham, added: “If the mining industry is to continue to meet the demands of a growing population in a sustainable way, then new technologies are going to be required to meet the new challenges. We are looking forward to working with colleagues at Rio Tinto in order to investigate these innovative new ideas.”

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More information about this press release is available from Nick King, Marketing Projects Manager, Business Engagement and Innovation Services, University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 823 2184, nicholas.king@nottingham.ac.uk; or David Outhwaite, Media Relations at Rio Tinto, on +44 (0)7787 597 493, david.outhwaite@riotinto.com

Photo shows, left to right: Professor Sam Kingman — Associate Dean for Research, and Research Director of the Rio Tinto Centre for Emergent Technologies (University of Nottingham); Professor Chris Rudd — Pro-Vice Chancellor for External Engagement (University of Nottingham); John McGagh — Head of Innovation, Technology and Innovation (Rio Tinto); and Preston Chiaro — Group Executive, Technology & Innovation (Rio Tinto).

Notes to editors:

About The University of Nottingham
The University of Nottingham has 42,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also one of the most popular universities among graduate employers, one of the world’s greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the World’s Top 75 universities by the QS World University Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at the University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its research into global food security.

About Rio Tinto
Rio Tinto is a leading international mining group headquartered in the UK, combining Rio Tinto plc, a London and NYSE listed company, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Rio Tinto’s business is finding, mining, and processing mineral resources. Major products are aluminium, copper, diamonds, energy (coal and uranium), gold, industrial minerals (borax, titanium dioxide, salt, talc) and iron ore. Activities span the world but are strongly represented in Australia and North America with significant businesses in South America, Asia, Europe and southern Africa. Website: www.riotinto.com

Story credits

For more information about the Rio Tinto Centre for Emergent Technologies, contact Professor Sam Kingman on +44 (0)115 951 4165,

Nick King  

Nick King - Marketing and Communications Manager, Energy Research Accelerator (ERA)

Email: nicholas.king@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 74 86727 Location: Coates Building, Faculty of Engineering, University Park Nottingham

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