Projects

About the Abercorn Project

Kaolinite is an industrial mineral belonging to the group of aluminosilicates. The term kaolin is used to describe a group of relatively common clay minerals, primarily kaolinite and is produced by the chemical weathering of aluminium silicate minerals like feldspar.  It is a soft, earthy, usually white, mineral (dioctahedral phyllosilicate clay).

Kaolin’s commercial attributes primarily revolve around being chemically inert over a relatively wide pH range, brightness, film strength, whiteness, opacity, gloss, viscosity, low heat and low electrical conductivity, which leads to a diversified range of industrial applications, some of which include:

  • Paper coating – to hide the pulp strands
  • Ceramics – high fusion temperature and white burning characteristics makes it particularly suitable for the manufacture of whiteware (china), porcelain
  • Paints – as an extender and flattening agent
  • Rubber – filling rubber to improve its mechanical strength and resistance to abrasion
  • Coil Coating
  • Colour Pencils
  • Plastics
  • Cement and Fibreglass

Kaolin is also emerging as a cost effective and environmentally friendly source of Alumina (Al) and can be applied as feedstock in the production of High Purity Alumina (HPA) and commercially versatile synthetic zeolites.

Maiden JORC Resource delivered at the Abercorn Project 

The Abercorn Project has demonstrated it contains a resource of significant scale and a very consistent, high quality grade of kaolinite mineralisation. The resource remains open in all directions with less than circa 10% of the Project area being drilled, leaving potential for substantial future upgrade.

The resource is situated approximately 135km south of the deep-water port of Gladstone and 125km west of the deep-water port of Bundaberg in central Queensland. These major ports are connected to the Abercorn Project by sealed roads and the Burnett Highway bisects the tenements.

Total Maiden Resource for the Abercorn Project area is 39.06Mt yielding 36.8% -20µm grading 28.6% Al2O3 containing the following high-grade sections:
  • An area called the Railcut Prospect contains 14Mt yielding 38% -20µm fraction grading 30.26% Al2O3
  • An area called the Area 3 Prospect contains 1.66 Mt yielding 30.9% -20µm fraction grading 30.7% Al2O3

Current project highlights include:

  • Large scale mineralised system from surface
  • 86 RC holes drilled - kaolinite intersected in every hole
  • Resource remains open in all directions
  • Potential for significant resource upgrade - drilling represents less than 10% of tenement
  • Low cost operation - straight forward open cut mining
  • Little to no overburden
  • Low impurities
  • Mains power on site / major power transmission line within 5km of site
  • Large water supply nearby and within EPM
  • Sealed highway connects the Project to 2 major deep-water ports, both within 135km

About our collaboration with The University of Queensland

Metalsearch (“MSE”) values its close working relationship with the University of Queensland, which through UniQuest is one of MSE’s largest shareholder with 7.38% of issued capital.  This collaboration places the company at the forefront of environmental mineral technology development [1].

Synthetic Zeolites, mineral processing technology – provisional patent lodged July 2019.

Metalsearch have secured an exclusive worldwide licence from UniQuest, the technology transfer company of The University of Queensland (UQ) for the manufacturing (synthesizing) of synthetic zeolites. The technology has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of manufacturing zeolites, compared to conventional production processes.

https://uniquest.com.au/partnership-for-uq-mineral-processing-technology/

Synthetic zeolites are used in a broad range of applications including – water treatment (purification and separation), detergent builders and cracking processes in the pharmaceutical and petroleum industries, the 2019 global synthetic zeolite market was estimated at USD $5.64 billion [2]

Under lab conditions, UQ demonstrated:

  • up to 70% reduction in energy in the thermal activation stage;
  • up to 80% reduction in production time in subsequent zeolite precipitation steps;
  • significant reduction in toxic waste.

UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss said the UQ technology has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of manufacturing zeolites, compared to current production processes.

“The UQ technology used to produce the synthetic zeolite has shown potential to reduce energy consumption and production time, compared to traditional methods in lab experiments.

“UniQuest is very pleased to have partnered with MSE for this promising technology. With the MSE licence, and an associated research agreement, we are excited to support MSE to explore broader use across multiple industry applications and further commercialise this technology to create change.” Dr Moss said.

High Purity Alumina (HPA), mineral processing technology provisional patent lodged November 2019.

The School of Chemical Engineering at UQ worked in collaboration with Abercorn Kaolin Pty Ltd (since late 2018), a wholly owned subsidiary of MSE to develop a novel approach to HPA production.

MSE owns 100% of the Intellectual Property associated with the provisional patent application and as announced to the ASX on 17th October 2019, kaolin from MSE’s Abercorn Project has successfully produced 4N HPA (99.99%+) Al2O3 using a traditional process.

UQ School of Chemical Engineering Associate Professor, Dr James Vaughan said he was delighted with the work on HPA provisional patent application.

“We have worked in close collaboration with Abercorn over the past 12 months and are delighted that a provisional patent application has been lodged. We look forward to further developing our research work on behalf of Metalsearch Ltd.” Associate Professor, Dr James Vaughan said.

[1] https://www.chemeng.uq.edu.au/research

[2] Verified Market Research – Global Synthetic Zeolite Market Size & Forecast to 2026

The University of Queensland
School of Chemical Engineering

Synthetic Zeolite
Mineral Processing Technology
(patent-pending)

Before

kaolin or mine tailings waste / residue

After

zeolite LTA (Linde Type A)

About synthetic zeolites

Synthetic zeolites are manufactured aluminosilicate minerals with a sponge-like structure, made up of tiny pores (frameworks) that make them useful as catalysts or ultrafine filters. They are commonly known as molecular sieves and can be designed to selectively adsorb molecules or ions dependant on their unique construction and have the ability to be regenerated over and over again for re-use (recycled).

Zeolites act much like a magnet that can hold cations, like heavy metal, ammonia, low level radioactive elements, toxins, petrochemicals, many different types of gases and a multitude of various solutions.

The selectivity properties of different synthetic zeolites enable them to be effective in wastewater treatment applications, water filters and as ion exchangers in many everyday dishwashing and laundry detergents.

Zeolites play an important role in a cleaner and safer environment.

  • zeolites are an effective substitute for harmful phosphates in powder detergent, now banned in many parts of the world because of blue green algae toxicity in waterways
  • as catalysts zeolites increase process efficiencies = decrease in energy consumption
  • zeolites can act as solid acids and reduced the need for more corrosive liquid acids
  • zeolites adsorbent capabilities see them widely used in water treatment i.e. heavy metal removal including those produced by nuclear fission
  • as redox catalysts sorbents zeolites can help remove exhaust gases and CFC’s

Our proprietary mineral processing technology also presents as a potential commercial remediation solution for suitable mine tailings/residues, by applying tail streams as feed for low cost production of high value zeolites.

Synthetic zeolites can be manufactured for specific applications in a range of industrial environments, the primary types are:

Zeolite A

Zeolite A is a sodium aluminosilicate and is utilized as a builder in tablets and detergent powders for the water softening in washing process. This type of zeolite is also known as Linde Type A (LTA), which belongs to the aluminosilicate molecular sieves family. Sodium ions present in zeolite A can be replaced with other cations, including potassium, lithium, and calcium. There are around 150 synthetic zeolites designed for the specific purposes. However, the most common type is zeolite type A, which include:

  • 4A  applications include a detergent builder and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) heat  stabiliser.  4A molecular seive can be used  for the deep drying of air, natural gas, alkaline, refrigerants and other gases and liquids.
  • 3A is a molecular sieve that has a pore size that is 3 angstrom (3A), hence it will not adsorb any molecules larger than 3A. It is a very effective and reliable desiccant (drying agent) and is used in a wide variety of commercial applications, some of which include, natural gas drying, refrigerant drying, moisture removal in polyurethane plastic/paint, static drying of insulating glass units and is also applied in method of drying that is used by fuel ethanol producers.
  • 5A is a molecular sieve that has a pore size that is 5 angstrom (5A). It cannot adsorb any molecules smaller than 5A and primary applications are separation of alkane types, co-adsorption of carbon dioxide and moisture, along with pressure swing adsorption (PSA) for gases.

Zeolite X

Zeolite X belongs to Faujasite family which are used as catalysts and sorbents. There are several different types of zeolite X dependent on pore size. It is mainly used in the gas drying applications, however, it has a variety of industrial applications, including gas separation and adsorption, besides being utilized as a catalyst. Zeolite X ion exchange properties also make it effective in removing toxins from wastewater. One key type of zeolite X is:

  • 13X  has larger pore size than Type A zeolites (circa 10 angstroms) and is primarily used in types of air refining (ie removing carbon dioxide and water), removal of grease and solvents and in gas pressure swing adsorption.

Zeolite ZSM-5

Zeolite Zsm-5 belongs to pentasil family of zeolites . This type of zeolite is extensively utilized in the petroleum sector as a heterogeneous catalyst. It is comprised of numerous pentasil units combined together to form pentasil chains by oxygen bridges. These pentasil chains form corrugated sheets with interconnected oxygen bridges. ZSM-5 main applications are in fine chemical production processes.

Zeolite Y

Zeolite Y is utilized as a fluid cracking catalyst of heavy petroleum distillates to increase the yield of diesel and gasoline fuel from crude oil. Zeolite Y is among the most popular catalysts due to its properties, such as good hydrothermal stability and inherent surface acidity. The hydrothermal and thermal stability of the zeolite Y is associated with its silica and alumina ratio that plays crucial role in materials produced for applications, such as  catalytic cracking catalysts in the oil industry.

Primary applications:

  • Detergent builder
  • PVC heat  stabiliser
  • Moisture removal / drying across a range of substances
  • Separation and purification ie Water treatments and air purification
  • Cracking processes ie Oil and Gas industry

Detergent

Synthetic zeolites play an important role as ion exchangers in many everyday laundry detergents, assisting to remove calcium and magnesium and soften water so they work more effectively. Synthetic zeolites are sought after as a detergent builder as they present an environmentally friendly substitute for toxic phosphates (which are banned in the USA, Europe, Australia and some parts of Asia).

Water treatment

The rise in adoption of synthetic zeolite based adsorbents in major end use industries including water treatment, chemicals and petrochemicals particularly in the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Latin America has boosted the growth of the market and this is expected to continue over the next decade.

Rising environmental concerns regarding wastewater health hazards have triggered regulatory bodies across the globe to mandate the use of synthetic zeolite based adsorbents. The stringent regulatory norms specifically in the U.S. and Europe to disinfect both water and air have also been boosting the demand for adsorbents [1]

Other applications

Synthetic zeolite is also used as PVC heat stabilisers, catalyst in the pharmaceutical and petroleum industries, in catalytic crackers to break large hydrocarbon molecules into gasoline, diesel, kerosene and waxes.

They also have potential applications as inputs in animal feed supplements, as mycotoxin adsorbents.

Exclusive global Licence Agreement to produce Synthetic Zeolites. 

[1] Verified Market Research “Global Synthetic Zeolite Market Size & Forecast to 2026”