A pioneer of the state’s cyanide heap-leach technology is now testing a cleaner, zero-waste approach to mineral extraction that could revolutionize the industry.
The process has potential to unlock unrealized resources in previously mined material, and some proponents hope in its ability to extract precious metals from virgin ore.
Testing of an extracting liquid began on previously leached material from Comstock Mining Inc.’s nonactive Lucerne Mine in August 2017. Results a year later show that the technology can reduce cyanide while extracting valuable minerals, including silver and gold.
Corrado De Gasperis, Comstock executive chairman, president and CEO, called the science a “breakthrough from a metallurgical and cost perspective.” Through chemistry, the system also could leave soil clean and nutrient rich, possibly reducing permitting and bonding requirements by eliminating toxins and fertilizing the ground.
“That’s one of the biggest barriers we have,” said Dr. John Whitney, president of Reno-based Itronics Inc., an award-winning green technology specialty fertilizer and silver refining company. “It sounds too good to be true.”