Australia imports about 3 500 tonnes per year of activated carbon for the carbon-in-pulp gold extraction process (of which about three-quarters or about 2 500 tonnes) is used in Western Australia). A further 3 000 tonnes of activated carbon is used for sugar, food, wine and water treatment.
Western Australia uses one-half of Australia's imports of activated carbon. Already producing a high quality coal-derived carbon there are prospects for its manufacture in a form suitable for the gold industry. Presently such carbon is imported and made from coconut shell which is sufficiently hard to be suitable for their carbon-in-pulp processes.
Carbonaceous material is derived from wood, coal and coconut shell by heating in a low oxygen environment, the carbon is activated by a chemical or physical process. Note: Activation is the formation of a crystalline form with a high surface area within the carbon. The process creates a bulky product which is expensive to transport promoting the manufacture near markets and little international trade (less than one-quarter).
Australian imports are valued at $10 million per year (with a market value of about A$2 600 to $4 000 per tonne). Imported carbon is a hard form mostly made from coconut shell supplied from Sri Lanka and the the Philippines, and from peat by a higher cost process from the Netherlands.
One company, Char Processors, based in Western Australia, is commercialising activated carbon derived from Collie coal. Its current range of carbon products are used in water treatment, food decolourisation, gas purification and for horticultural purposes.
Some industry sources consider that Western Australia's indigenous Jarrah timber could be used to manufacture carbon that is sufficiently hard to be suitable for use in the gold industry. If so, it could be manufactured by Simcoa Operations at Kemerton as it already produces a high quality form of charcoal for its silicon smelter. The manufacture of activated carbon would be harmonious with current activities.
A typical competitive scale plant produces around 6 000 tpa which is about Australia's requirements though double that required by the gold industry.
Char Processors Pty Ltd
PO Box 866 Cloverdale
Western Australia 6105
Tel 61 8 9380 1753
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