AUSTRALIA’s national science agency, CSIRO has produced the country’s first gold using a non-toxic chemical process that looks set to offer a global alternative to using cyanide and mercury to extract the yellow metal.

Cyanide and mercury pollution of local watercourses, often as a result of extreme weather events, has been known to endanger local populations and has caused the downfall of several major mining corporations.

CSIRO’s first gold is the result of early industry trials of its ‘going for gold’ technology and was produced in partnership with small gold miner Eco Minerals Research at a demonstration plant in the Western Australian goldfields town of Menzies.

Cyanide is used in more than 90 percent of global gold production, but producers are facing increasingly tough regulations that prevent or restrict its use due to environmental and health concerns. 

For example, in response to recent spills of toxic cyanide, several regional agencies in the United States, South America and Europe have banned the use of cyanide for gold extraction.

The technology replaces cyanide with thiosulphate, a non-toxic alternative, and a simple process flowsheet.

It could be a game-changer for Eco Minerals Research which has its sights set on becoming the first Australian producer to go cyanide-free.

“The first gold is a major milestone in our progress towards becoming one of the world’s first green gold producers,” Eco Minerals Research managing director Paul Hanna said.

“In close collaboration with CSIRO we’ve gone through the design, engineering and fabrication stages and set up a processing facility in Menzies, delivering the first gold pour in just 10 months, which is a fantastic achievement.”

The CSIRO research team behind the innovation has already had commercial success with another tailored cyanide-free gold solution developed with Barrick Gold specifically for the company’s Goldstrike Mine in Nevada, where it has been used for nearly four years to maintain production rates.

The $2.1 million demonstration project was made possible through $860,000 in funding from the Science and Industry Endowment fund (SIEF) and an Australian Government Innovation Connections grant.

“Science enabling industry and environment to be partners not competitors, exactly as envisioned in our market vision – turning commodities into higher value, uniquely Australian products,” CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said.

“It has been accelerated through CSIRO’s ON program, and could be a game-changer for small gold producers or those looking to get ahead of increasing market demand for greener commodities.

“Early industry trials like this are critical to innovation and go to the heart of CSIRO’s mission to tackle big, real-world challenges and unlock a better future for everyone,” Dr Marshall said.

He said to reduce economic barriers to entry for small producers and help turn stranded gold deposits into production, CSIRO’s vision was to deliver the alternative process technology direct to mine sites via a mobile service.

A typical cyanide-based processing plant costs around $30 million, whereas the new technology has a lower capital investment costing as little as $2-2.5 million to build.

Find out more about CSIRO’s going for gold technology here.


THE University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney will release a new smart policy to address climate change – which the university argues is "the greatest challenge of our time".

The Australian Climate Dividend Plan (ACDP) involves a tax on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions with the revenue generated returned to all voting-age Australian citizens.

Developed by UNSW economics professor Richard Holden and law professor Rosalind Dixon, co-leads for the UNSW Grand Challenge on Inequality, the plan will be officially presented on November 20 at an event with the Federal Member for Wentworth, Kerryn Phelps. 

The plan outlines a comprehensive market-based approach to making energy in Australia more affordable and reliable, by an introduction of a universal carbon tax of $20-$50 per ton for all carbon emissions in Australia. The revenue generated would be returned to all adult Australian citizens, who would potentially see a tax-free payment of about $1,300 each per annum.

Professor Holden said the ACDP is modelled on similar proposals developed in the US by the Climate Leadership Council. 

“It’s a method we know works – albeit sometimes a hard sell," Professor Holden said. "The key to our proposal is that it not only provides strong market-based incentives to reduce our carbon emissions, it addresses the economic well-being of low-income Australians – previously a barrier to developing a meaningful policy response to climate change.”

The report serves to address legitimate concerns about what effective action on climate change would mean for the economic well-being of low-income Australians, their access to affordable transport and energy, and the competitiveness of Australian industry.

“Our carbon dividend approach bridges the left-right divide on climate policy,” Prof. Holden said. “It is at once conservative and progressive and provides a workable solution that will appeal to all sides of the political spectrum.”

One option canvassed in the ACDP is to phase in the carbon dividend, beginning at $20 per ton and increasing by $5 each year to $50. This would leave more than three-quarters of Australians better off financially, even if they did not change their consumption or energy use.

Under the plan Australian industry would remain competitive. Australian exporters to countries without a carbon tax would get a rebate for taxes paid. In addition, a fee would be charged based on the carbon component of exported goods to Australia from other countries that do not have a carbon tax – creating an incentive to produce less carbon or adopt a tax themselves.   

The plan would also see the rollback of subsidies for renewables and similar measures, which are unnecessary with the tax on carbon. This could save the government more than $2.5 billion annually.

UNSW engaged new independent MP for Wentworth,  Kerryn Phelps on the policy. Professor Phelps is regarded as being focused and passionate about addressing climate change.

"The people of Wentworth – and I think Australia generally – want decisive action on cutting greenhouse emissions and a carefully considered plan to transition the economy from fossil fuels to renewables,” Prof. Phelps said.

"At this stage, I’m not being overly prescriptive on the best pathway to achieve better climate change policy, but listening to the views of experts such as Professor Holden and Professor Dixon helps to inform me on developing the best policy settings to lead us to a clean energy future."

The UNSW Grand Challenges program aims to discuss and address the biggest issues facing humanity. The Grand Challenge on Inequality has previously developed policy reports on inequality and financial distress, including an innovative method for measuring the value of government expenditures.

For more information: UNSW’s Grand Challenges

Read the full report, A Climate Dividend for Australians.


AUSTRALIA’s national science agency, CSIRO, is encouraging the rapidly developing domestic space industry to join international partners in a bold project to establish a permanent human base on the Moon.

Australian Space Agency chief – and former CSIRO chief executive – Megan Clark and current CSIRO CEO Larry Marshall are leading the call. They say a sector-wide ‘lunar challenge’ would be “an exciting opportunity for Australian industry to contribute to a common goal aimed at growing the size of our domestic space industry to $12 billion by 2030”.

Dr Marshall said it would also be used to inspire future generations with a new grand challenge, just as the US Apollo program did in the 1960s and 1970s. 

According to Dr Clark and Dr Marshall, meeting the lunar base challenge would involve Australian researchers and industry building capabilities in autonomous robotic systems; developing ‘in-situ resource utilisation’ on the Moon; new ways of managing habitat and life support systems; and finding new solutions in power and propulsion systems (see panel story below).

An international coordination group already exists. It has an aim to expand human exploration and presence in low Earth orbit, and on the Moon and Mars, over the next two decades.

Dr Marshall said Australian space sector support for the lunar challenge would be an opportunity to grow our existing relationships with global partners, including international space agencies.

The industry-wide appeal was launched in September by the Industry, Science and Technology Minister, Karen Andrews at the 18th Australian Space Research Conference on the Gold Coast.

The report Ms Andrews released – Space: A Roadmap for unlocking future growth opportunities for Australia – highlights Australia’s unique strengths and geographic advantages and ways to increase Australia’s share of the international space sector.

“Our space roadmap charts a course for economic growth using space, and champions a new era of space exploration to inspire our children with the power of science to make the ‘impossible’ possible,” CSIRO’s Dr Marshall said.
“Our existing space industry is built on a foundation of trust earned 50 years ago when we enabled the world to see mankind touch the Moon – that kind of inspiration is a key ingredient in supercharging growth in new industries, new jobs, new STEM talent and developing a dynamic nation where the sky is no longer the limit.”  


Developed in consultation with industry, the Space report presents three key opportunity areas for potential development, which can support the growth of Australia’s ‘space economy’. 

By building capabilities in observing Earth from space, satellite communications, and positioning, navigation and timing data, Australia can grow new service-based businesses that address issues such as disaster and water management, according to the CSIRO.

By taking advantage of Australia’s geographic position in the southern hemisphere, the space sector can further its work with international programs that track objects in space, manage space debris, and enable deep space communication.

By harnessing Australia’s diverse industrial and research strengths across astronomy, mining, manufacturing, medicine, agriculture and robotics for Earth-based industry, the country can support space exploration and deep space gateway habitats to safely conduct robotic and human missions.

“CSIRO’s unique position creates a bridge between research and industry to deliver breakthrough innovation to Australian SMEs and start-ups across the space value chain,” Dr Marshall said.
Australian Space Agency’s Dr Clark endorsed the roadmap.

“This roadmap introduces some key scientific opportunities which Australia can utilise to drive engagement and growth across the space value chain,” Dr Clark said.

“Together, the Australian Space Agency, CSIRO and other key partners will drive the full potential of our nation’s capabilities and competitive advantages, optimising our R&D opportunities and targeting growth across the space value chain to build a space sector of which all Australians can be proud.”

Dr Marshall said CSIRO has deep expertise and a strong track record of engagement across the space sector – developed over 75 years – that included working with small-to-medium enterprises as well as with international space agencies and multinational corporations.

The new roadmap was developed by CSIRO Futures, the strategic advisory arm of CSIRO, following extensive industry consultation with nearly 150 business, government and technology representatives.


Autonomous robotic systems: Deep space exploration missions are hostile environments for humans, so developments in machine learning, AI and robotics are essential to gather data and supporting analytics.

In-situ resource utilisation: Using local resources at the exploration destination could require mapping and prospecting, processing of new minerals and materials and additive manufacturing capabilities.

Habitat and life support: Deep space exploration missions require innovative systems for all aspects of habitat and life support including food, medicine and shelter and waste management.

Power and propulsion: Technology solutions suitable for in-situ power generation, energy harvesting and storage, engine and fuel options for rockets and in-space propulsion.

Read Space: A Roadmap for unlocking future growth opportunities for Australia.


A NEW $2 billion investment is heading in the direction of supercomputing facilities, microscopy and imaging capabilities, complex biology – including next generation sequencing – and support for clinical trials infrastructure.

Those are the leverage points for major new investment by the Federal Government in Australia’s medical research sector, continuing along the road to a goal of $20 billion in total funding for the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) by 2020-21.

The Federal Government’s latest $2 billion Research Infrastructure Investment Plan gives the sector a welcome long-term – about 10 years – commitment to seeing Australian researchers have the tools they need to make new discoveries in medical research. 

According to Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) president Tony Cunningham, the funding will give the sector confidence to make co-investments. It will also give researchers the confidence to undertake long-term projects that will deliver health and economic benefits to the nation.

“The Investment Plan recognises an important fact – that we can only do world class research when we have access to world class research infrastructure,” Professor Cunningham said.

Prof. Cunningham applauded the government’s commitment of nearly $2 billion of funding announced in the Federal Budget for this Plan.

“This investment will make Australia a more attractive research destination, providing new opportunities for our best and brightest to stay here in Australia for their research career, and allow us to attract the very best global talent,” he said.

He said AAMRI was particularly pleased to see the new investment in medical research infrastructure.

“Our world-class research sector supports in excess of 150,000 jobs, and to keep supporting these jobs we need to keep supporting the infrastructure that underpins them,” Prof. Cunningham said.

He said the investment would help find ways to speed up identification of diseases such as cancer, develop new medical devices to deliver needle free vaccines and help develop new medical treatments to reduce future medical costs.

AAMRI, the peak body representing 49 medical research institutes across Australia, encompassing 15,000 staff and students, acknowledged that the Investment Plan provided a strategic, whole-of-government view to investing in Australia’s national research infrastructure system.

The Plan was developed following the Federal Government’s detailed consideration of the 2016 Roadmap, including nearly 500 written submissions and consultations with over 580 stakeholders.

The Medical Research Future Fund is regarded as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to significantly reshape the landscape of Australian medical research and innovation.

According to the AAMRI, Australia has world leading health and medical research and a world-class health system, but too often they operate in isolation from each other rather than as one system with the aim of a healthier community.

The MRFF was set up to provide the opportunity to bridge the gap between the two, seeing  Australian medical research and innovation in partnership with health practitioners.

Established by legislation in August 2015, the MRFF operates as an investment fund. With an account balance of around $7 billion and further capital injections to be made by the Australian Government over the next few years, the MRFF is scheduled to reach its target of $20 billion in 2020-21.

The MRFF’s capital is invested and the earnings are available to fund health and medical research and innovation.


AUSTRALIA’S national science agency’s new mobile device app, CSIRO Energise, is plugging in ‘people power’ to help researchers understand how energy is used around the country.

By using the new CSIRO Energise app, ‘citizen scientists’ will help to paint a clearer picture of contemporary energy use to guide research and decisions concerning Australia’s energy future.

For example, solid data can help overcome information gaps around how much households pay for energy, what is driving these costs, and how to reduce these costs into the future. 

The app is a key component of CSIRO’s Energy Use Data Model project, which is collating, centralising and enhancing various streams of energy data.

Until now, this information has never been brought together, and the resulting platform will benefit researchers, government and industry.

Over time, users of CSIRO Energise will receive a range of ‘micro-surveys’ covering general household characteristics, tariffs and power costs, energy-usage patterns, appliances, uptake of renewables, and more.

The app will follow users’ responses over time and ask questions in response to specific events, like how air conditioning is used on hot days, and how that can then improve understanding and management of peak energy consumption.

CSIRO Energise is intended as a two-way communication channel, with users receiving insights including tips for energy efficiency in the home, cutting-edge research updates, and short videos from scientists.

CSIRO Energy director, Tim Finnigan said that by taking part, households across the country would provide valuable data to support the science that will ultimately improve national energy systems.

“We know the way Australians use energy is changing, but it’s important for us to know how quickly, and what’s driving that change,” Dr Finnigan said.

“CSIRO Energise will help fill missing pieces of the puzzle with robust, objective data in areas where our knowledge is lacking. This will ensure that CSIRO can continue to drive the innovation that guides an affordable, sustainable and reliable energy system.”

Project leader Adam Berry noted that consumer surveying has moved beyond large-scale mail-outs and focus groups.

“With CSIRO Energise we can ask important questions at critical points in time, for example in the wake of an extreme heatwave or unexpected blackout,” Dr Berry said.

“Getting this information quickly and from a broad sample of households means that we can quickly spot issues, and then start working on solutions.
“Every member of the public can make a valuable contribution to our work by completing these short surveys over time, telling us more about their energy world.”

CSIRO pointed out that data collected through the app remained on Australian servers, featured data encryption and was only accessible to authorised users.


ARCHITECTURE and engineering students at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have created a ‘Tower of Power’ solar charging kiosk – complete with sun-tracking panels and smartphone app.

The innovative project, supported by the former Emerson Network Power organisation now re-branded as Vertiv, is a stylish modern solar solution to enable students to charge their mobile devices under the sun on campus.

The QUT Tower of Power is an off-grid kiosk built with lightweight but durable materials and fitted with solar panels positioned for optimum efficiency. The kiosk has eight seats in total where students can sit and interact while their devices charge. It’s also connected to an application that allows students to see how many ports are available at any time.  

“We challenged design students to propose a structure for a smart solar mobile charging station,” said QUT Electrical Engineering Student Society (QUT EESS) president, Vishnu Kumar Arun.

“The students went above and beyond and created something that is truly innovative and that embodies the Internet of Things (IoT) and electronics projects developed by our engineering team.”

The winning students, chosen from four finalists in the competition, worked closely with the engineering teams of QUT EESS to modify the solution design for fabrication and real-world implementation and are now field testing it on campus. The hope is to expand on the project and get similar kiosks in place in other universities and organisations countrywide with a commercially viable solution.

Vertiv, which sponsored the competition and worked closely with the university to help secure the right batteries for the solution, has been inspired by the project and has ordered its own model of the kiosk to showcase to local government customers around the country as a potential tool for their IoT goals. The critical infrastructure company is also hoping to have a demonstration of the kiosk at Smart Cities Week in October.

“This simple yet innovative idea and execution of it has been a joy to be a part of,” said Alan Smith, senior solutions architect with Vertiv Australia and New Zealand. “This kind of idea is vital to the successful development of IoT and smart cities in Australia, and to make sure environmental efficiency is considered in line with infrastructure that makes sense for people.”

Vertiv ANZ associate director of national sales, Kirk Wetherell said, “Charging mobile devices isn’t the largest burden on the grid, but it still plays its part. This is a fusion of cool architecture and clever engineering and the result is an energy-efficient solution which could be used in a huge variety of settings.”

Co-designer of the Tower of Power, Lydia Carlton said, “We wanted to design something innovative and aesthetically pleasing. But we also felt it was important to make it an area where students could sit down and socialise while their devices charged; so we added seating to the inside and outside to cater for different weather.”

Another co-designer, architecture student Nikita Tongia said it presented a rare opportunity to collaborate on something that would have a direct positive impact on students.

“QUT has great initiatives supporting both sustainability and IoT and we felt this solution fitted in well with both,” Ms Tongia said.

Vertiv supports mobile and cloud computing markets with a portfolio of power, thermal and infrastructure management solutions including the Chloride, Liebert, NetSure and Trellis brands.


An Australian health researcher with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has received a number of awards for her contribution to the development of a new hybrid technique that enhances the effectiveness of an advanced form of radiation therapy for treating cancer.

Neutron Capture Enhanced Particle Therapy (NCEPT) involves injecting a patient with a neutron capture agent shortly before irradiation with proton or heavy ion therapy.  

The approach boosts the target dose without increasing the dose to healthy tissue and delivers a significant dose to secondary lesions outside the primary treatment area.

Mitra Safavi Naeini, the imaging quantification research lead in Human Health at ANSTO, has received one of the 2018 Fraunhofer Innovation Awards from the German Embassy, which will enable her to carry out proof-of-concept experiments at German particle therapy centres later this year.

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