Speaker spotlight Dr Kathy Ehrig

Olympic Dam – is it really complex?

21 September 2018

Here’s a snapshot of Dr Kathy Ehrig’s keynote address on Olympic Dam – is it really complex? and how essential it is to have a discussion about complex orebodies.

Dr Kathy Ehrig, Principal Geometallurgist at BHP Billiton Olympic Dam, Australia, completed her Bachelor of Science in Geology at California State University, Fresno in 1984 and earned a PhD in geology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1991. She worked as a Geological Technician for the US Navy from 1974-1982 before completing her studies and finally going to work with Western Mining Corporation and, later, BHP Billiton as Principal Geometallurgist at Olympic Dam.

1. How important is the discussion around complex orebodies for the mining industry?

There are two points to consider when answering this question:
1) discovery rates of new orebodies are not keeping pace with our resource depletion rates, and
2) capital investment required to bring new orebodies into production is increasing.

Both of these are leading the mining industry to mine from the lower grade parts of existing orebodies or develop lower grade orebodies. The metallurgical processing required to extract the metals from lower grades becomes more complex. Mining lower grades while trying to achieve constant metal output, also means that higher tonnages of tailings are produced which must be managed. As an industry we need to become more innovative in the effort to sustainably produce metals which are the building blocks of our civilisation.

2. What will your keynote presentation cover?

The term ‘complex’ might lead some people to believe ‘not possible’. All problems/challenges, even complex ones, can be solved by breaking the apparently ‘complex’ problem into a series of simple ones which have solutions. The Olympic Dam deposit is a good example of a complex orebody and process to extract metals. I will show that Olympic Dam is really not that complex.

3. What approaches or technology are you looking forward to hearing about at the conference?

Part of process of developing innovative solutions to economically extract metals from complex orebodies is to understand the issues faced by all disciplines within the industry. This conference has speakers from a wide variety of mining-related experiences. I am looking forward to hearing how other companies and researchers are addressing the issue of complex orebodies.

Register now to join her session and hear how other researchers and companies are addressing this issue!
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