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Van Weert machine for sorting ore could impact mining industry

Serge Halytsky
International Affairs Reporter

A Humber College student is building an ore sorting machine that could potentially make the mining industry more efficient and minimize humanity’s environmental footprint on earth.

Humber Electromechanical Engineering Technology student Mark Van Weert chose to design and build the ore sorter as his third-year project.

His team is going to make it from scratch.

“It actually started over coffee with my grandpa,” Van Weert said. “He is aware of the problems in the mining industry with current ore sorting methods. My grandfather is a consultant and he’s been in the mining industry for the large part of his career.”

Van Weert spoke with program coordinator Neal Mohammed and they got Steiner, a German firm ranked the second-largest mining company in the world, involved as anindustry sponsor involved.

“We met in Humber with all the parties involved last February” Van Weert said. “At the same time my grandfather wanted to put his back behind the project as well.”

His grandfather’s company, Oretome, became the second sponsor.

Together, the two sponsors contributed a total of $20,000 to the $110,000 Van Weert estimated will be needed for the first stage of the project. It will jump to $210,000 for second stage, he said estimated.

“I will be applying for further funding to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, but (the $20,000) should be plenty for now,” Van Weert said.

Festo, another a German firm, also contributed to the project, donating a conveyor belt that will feed ore samples to a microwave tower, where the mined material will be heated in a microwave oven before being sorted. Festo also donated two more pieces of machinery for the project.

“We’re still on the very thin wedge of the edge in terms of what we know and what the potential could be,” Van Weert said. “It could be implemented very (widely). It could be 80 per cent of the market.”

“This is an idea of mining smarter,” said Van Weert’s grandfather Dr. Gus Van Weert. “Dig the rock up in the open pit mine, crush it to sortable size, sort out the high grade rocks and only transport that rich portion for further processing to metal. This way of mining would cut energy and tonnages in half.

“If it (works), man’s footprint on the earth will become a little smaller and life can become a little better for all,” Dr. Van Weert said.

Humber mechanical technologist Philip Kwan, a part of the project team, said he had never worked on anything like this project before, noting “first of all it is different because it is going to be done from scratch.”

A prototype of the machine should be ready by April.

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