Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto Ore Upgrading Challenge

Rio Tinto Ore Upgrading Challenge

Rio Tinto seeks economically-viable new technologies to increase titanium dioxide content in ilmenite ore from 32% to 50% or better.

Challenge Overview

Rio Tinto supplies the metals and minerals that help the world to grow. Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium (RTIT), the group originating this challenge, provides ilmenite ore containing titanium dioxide as a raw material to pigment producers. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is non-toxic, biologically inert and used by downstream pigment producers as a coloring or opacity agent in paints, plastics, paper, and other materials. 

In this challenge we seek your ideas for how to cost-effectively improve TiO2 content in our ilmenite ore (from 32% TiO2 content to 50% or better) by isolating and separating out lower-quality hematite inclusions (lamellae) from the ore matrix and liberated gangue (non-valued) material. Given the scope and scale of our operations, the business opportunity for successfully solving this problem is very large.

This two-stage challenge will provide innovators with the most compelling ideas funding to demonstrate feasibility and may ultimately result in commercialization. In our Stage 1 Challenge, participants will provide a non-confidential submission that describes the proposed approach to increasing TiO2 content in ilmenite ore. Up to three (3) of the most compelling concepts will be selected to advance to Stage 2, which will be conducted under mutual non-disclosure agreements. Each accepted Stage 1 winner will receive $50,000 USD to support their work in Stage 2, which is focused on demonstrating initial feasibility for the proposed approach via both written descriptions and results of testing using Rio Tinto ore samples. At the end of Stage 2, Rio Tinto will select the challenge winner and award one winner up to $200,000 to support additional development under a negotiated co-development agreement. Rio Tinto will also provide the winner with technical support and the opportunity to collaborate with Rio Tinto R&D scientists and engineers. Should this solution prove technically and commercially feasible, Rio Tinto may propose a follow-on agreement with the winner for commercialization and scale-up. 

Solving this problem represents a significant opportunity for both Rio Tinto and the challenge winner. We look forward to your engagement and ideas!


Challenge Structure Overview

Stage 1 (Concepts):

  • Stage 1 is open to everyone (see eligibility rules)
  • Submissions must be received by Monday March 2, 2020, 12 noon ET
  • Up to three (3) submissions selected to advance to Stage 2 by Monday April 6, 2020, 5pm ET
  • Stage 1 winners each receive $50,000 for Stage 2 development work along with a sample of ilmenite ore

Stage 2 (Feasibility):

  • Stage 2 begins Monday April 6, 2020 (Only Stage 1 winners are eligible to participate)
  • Upgraded ore and technical report must be received by Monday August 3, 2020
  • Presentations to RTIT and analysis of ore complete by Wednesday September 2, 2020, 5pm ET
  • One winner to be selected by Friday September 18, 2020, 5pm ET
  • Winner will receive up to $200,000 to support additional development work toward validating cost-effective feasibility and potential commercialization
Updates 2

Challenge Updates

Cost Estimating Worksheet

Jan. 8, 2020, 12:20 p.m. PST by Kyla Jeffrey

Hi Everyone,

We have released a worksheet to assist you in developing initial cost estimates for the Rio Tinto Ore Upgrading Challenge. A completed cost estimate worksheet is a required deliverable for your Challenge submission.     

You may access the Cost Worksheet in the Resources section of the Challenge Page:

We recognize that at an 'idea-stage' of development, that accurate cost estimates will not be possible. At the same time, our overall objective is to identify cost-effective new technologies that can improve our TiO2 content, so cost feasibility of the approach is central to the Challenge. 

Our initial focus for evaluating costs will be related to operating costs (Opex). Capital expenditures (Capex) required for any proposed concept will be evaluated at a later stage of development (during our Stage-2 Challenge). 

The worksheet includes cost estimates for all production consumables, labor, maintenance and power (process-related) for your conceptual solution. Guidance is also provided for completing the worksheet below and to the right of each section. Note that green cells denote where direct input is allowed; grey cells are protected (locked) to prevent accidental overwriting of formulas.

If you have any questions, please post them in the Challenge Forum.

The Rio Tinto Ore Upgrading Challenge is now officially open for submission!

Dec. 5, 2019, 4:30 p.m. PST by Kyla Jeffrey

Since you've been following the challenge, you might want to know that starting today you have access to the full Challenge Guidelines and can begin drafting your submission! 

To get started, head back to the challenge page and click ACCEPT CHALLENGE. Once you accept the legal agreement, you will officially be signed up as a competitor!

Be sure to read the Challenge Guidelines carefully and see the supplemental information in the Resources section. Remember, if you're feeling stuck, the forum is a great resource to collaborate with others and get answers to your specific questions.

Good luck!

Forum 3
Community 187