José Martínez
Operations Manager
Quimica Tech
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Unlocking the Value of Microscopy for Mining

By Karin Dilge | Wed, 05/25/2022 - 17:44

Q: How has Quimica Tech adapted its solutions to the current state of the mining industry, and how does it stand out from the competition?

A: The pandemic greatly impacted the logistics of our industry, causing shortages and supply shortfalls. Although our most important service is the supply of laboratory products, materials and equipment, what we really sell is a package of solutions based on those products. We believe this is integral to our competitive advantage. We provide clients with a much more personalized approach, inquiring about their needs so that we can design customized solutions to solve their problems. Our specialty continues to be microscopy, which we have adapted to the modern online environment. This includes teaching our clients and users how to remotely use microscopes and microscopy software without requiring their physical presence in the lab. Imagery from the microscopic analysis can now be shared easily thanks to the available technology that we help our customers implement, which is a significant edge over our competition. The technology that enables this online collaboration existed before the pandemic, but most companies in the sector began implementing it in their operational workflows in response to the pandemic.

Q: How are your experiences in other industries relevant to your work in the mining industry?

A: We use the same microscopes for our work in various industries. Although petrographic, metallographic, or biological analysis requires different settings and adjustments, they are all done using the same physical principles. Even art restoration or artistic micrographs are done with the same equipment we use for the mining industry. The solution to problems in other sectors, like contrasting unstained tissue from pathology samples, is based on microscopy for geological applications. So, our work with geological samples has always allowed us to apply the “geological” know-how in other sectors.

Q: How does your work contribute to the operational quality of a mining project?  

A: All mining processes must deal with materials recovery and liberation, and the remains must be analyzed. If residual material is not diligently studied with microscopy techniques, a mine can risk throwing value and money away. Mineral processing at any mining facility needs to be designed and constantly refined based on what is revealed by residual analysis. We customize microscopes that can help our customers to identify the percentage of a mineral that remains in the residual material after each round of recovery. When the amount of the mineral of interest in the residuals is high enough, it opens an opportunity to extract value from their mined tons further. It can also be insufficient and justify leaving the mineral in the residual material to be discarded. 

Microscopy analysis also has applications in mining-related to the quality of the minerals themselves. Microscopic analysis can reveal how much energy can be extracted from a particular batch of coal, for example, which can determine its market value and potential use. Therefore, our services of helping our customers to get the most out of a microscope play a multipronged role in the financial framework of a mining project. Quimica Tech can optimize these finances by making the processing more efficient or better determining the actual value of what those processes are producing.  

Q: What are the main obstacles that your clients must deal with when determining the quality of their production? 

A: We try to educate our clients about the value of microscopes in mining applications. Many want to have the latest or best microscopes available to them, but they must be taught how to maximize value through effective use of the equipment.  One of the obstacles they deal with is a lack of knowledge regarding microscope use and applications.

At the base of this issue is that microscopy is not taught at universities or in programs that are relevant to the mining industry and the talent it employs. It is instead simply left to science majors. We play a significant role in filling this gap for the industry. Some mining projects even have the necessary microscopy equipment, but it is underutilized due to this lack of training. Our clients can struggle to achieve clarity in their projects regarding the value of the minerals they are selling or buying. We can provide that clarity for them so that their economic analysis can be delivered with more significant risk mitigation and uncertainty.

 

Quimica Tech is a supplier of equipment and reagents for laboratories, hospitals, education and research centers. It offers logistical and scientific capacity to optimize client performance.

Karin Dilge Karin Dilge Journalist and Industry Analyst