Ag + You = $$$

Mining giant Barrick Gold has recently announced a fascinating challenge to would-be mining engineers of the world: if you can think up a new way to extract silver from silica-encapsulated ore, we’ll give you $10 million. It seems that Barrick is sitting on a CEO’s ransom in South American silver, but is getting a less than 7% recovery rate from the ore they have to work with. Thus they’ve decided to throw the competition open to anyone who wants to go through the proposal process (which, it must be admitted, is pretty complex).

This challenge, which Barrick is calling the “Unlock the Value” program, calls to mind other recent prizes for technological innovations, like the Ansari X Prize, though in this case it’s a for-profit company rather than a philanthropic foundation that’s putting up the money. In addition to the $10 million, the company will also fund research and development for the most promising proposals – the final payment is just the performance bonus. It’ll be fascinating to see what they come up with – and, if successful, how much money they end up making off of the new process