The world's largest gold miner will try replacing cyanide with glycine. Thanks to Draslovka.

03/10/2023 - E15

Kolín-based Draslovka, the world's largest producer of sodium cyanide, has joined forces with Barrick Gold Corporation, the world's largest gold miner. This Canadian group plans to use the glycine gold leaching technology, which Draslovka has patented, for new mining operations. This opens up a new billion-dollar market for the company. The use of the process, which will be tested at Barrick in the first phase, can bring significant savings and also reduce the environmental burden, says Draslovka's media representative Vít Kurfürst.

Draslovka is partly going against its existing business. Indeed, the new patent with GlyCat will enable it to largely replace cyanide, the Kolín-based producer's flagship product to date, in mining. However, GlyCat is considerably more environmentally friendly in gold mining, as it is a non-toxic, food-grade reagent with the added advantage of being recyclable.

"Depending on the type of ore, the use of GlyCat can reduce cyanide consumption by twenty to eighty percent and reduce or completely eliminate the need for cyanide detoxification. For selected ores, this process also leads to higher yields," Draslovka said in its materials. With service support from the Kolín-based company, GlyCat can provide an average reduction in ore processing costs of a quarter, and up to half for some of the more complex ores, according to an official company statement.

And the fact that Draslovka's confidence is not lacking is confirmed by its boss Pavel Brůžek Jr. "GlyCat is a game changer," he told Bloomberg, adding that the mining industry could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year with this innovation. He declined to say how big a business it would be for Draslovka, but his savings estimate suggests a billion-dollar business.

The potential of the new method is confirmed by Ivan Souček, director of the Confederation of the Chemical Industry of the Czech Republic. "Glycine leaching is now the most sustainable way of extracting not only precious metals but also metals needed for electric car batteries and electronics in general," he points out.

Barrick is the first major mining company to trial glycine leaching. All deposits will now run extensive testing programs to quantify the operating cost savings from reduced cyanide consumption and to determine gold yield rates, according to Draslovka.

"GlyCat's technology provides an innovative and sustainable solution to the challenges associated with supplying key metals. I am confident that other industry players will follow Barrick's lead to ensure a sustainable future," says Brůžek.

Simon Bottoms, executive director of mineral resource management and evaluation at Barrick, feels similarly. He says the rate of significant discoveries of gold and copper reserves has been steadily declining over the past decade and, combined with the rapidly evolving geopolitical situation and the scarcity of these commodities, it is problematic to meet global demand for these key metals.

"Because of this, the industry must take the necessary steps to maximise the value of existing mines that are already in operation or are opening. Accordingly, we have entered into a partnership with Draslovka to continue to test technological innovations to bring greater long-term value to our mining operations for our stakeholders," Bottoms says.

Draslovka's consolidated revenues last year grew to an estimated $500 million on an operating EBITDA of around $100 million, or roughly CZK 2.3 billion. Meanwhile, sales could double in five years, and profits could even quadruple. The estimate, however, assumes the acquisition of Sasol's sodium cyanide business in South Africa, which is still pending.

Author: Ondřej Souček

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