Monday, 25 September 2017

Collaborative effort to minimise waste, energy and water consumption in the mining industry

It is good to see the recent trend for multi-disciplinary collaboration in order to identify and develop means of ameliorating some of the major problems in the mining industry. A good example of this is the Global Comminution Collaboration of six institutes, which identifies comminution research needs and unifies the approach to working on these needs.
Mining has been, and still is, a significant user of land space and water. One of the major environmental issues in processing the ore to concentrates is the waste stream, which can reach well over 90% of the total mass. The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is acting as the coordinator of the EU-funded three-year ITERAMS project, "Integrated Mineral Technologies for More Sustainable Raw Material Supply," funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 programme (MEI Online). It is hoped that the new methods developed in the project will offer the EU the potential to be in the forefront with regard to minimising waste, energy and water consumption in the mining sector.
Mining impacts on water quantity and quality are among the most contentious aspects of mining and mining development. The main problem for the mining industry is to generate confidence in developing a responsible, sustainable and transparent water management strategy that is recognized as such by all stakeholders, and this will be the subject of a keynote lecture at Sustainable Minerals '18 in Namibia next year, by Prof. Rob Dunne (posting of 24 April). The ITERAMS project will target significantly reducing water consumption by circulating process waters and reducing the amount of tailings waste through valorisation of the mineral matrix. Water circulation reduces water consumption at mine sites and the need to dispose of large quantities of wastewater in surrounding areas. To achieve this, the project is focusing on the complete isolation of process waters from the adjacent water systems. This will require development of new methods for optimizing and controlling water qualities at each process step. As a bonus, it will also facilitate the recovery of additional valuable constituents.
Geopolymer technology has long been recognized as providing the potential for immobilization of hazardous components and thus providing a safe method for utilizing mine tailings and the use of geopolymers as water- and oxygen-tight covers on the deposited tailings, as hardening mine fill or as saleable products will be demonstrated in the project. To this end, the tailings streams will be modified for their easier geopolymerisation.
The developed ITERAMS water and waste efficient concepts will be jointly validated by industrial and research partners at their mine sites. Three sites at Boliden (Finland), Somincor (Portugal) and Anglo American (Chile or South Africa) have been selected to validate the results in various conditions, for example in various mineralogical and geographical areas.
The consortium is multidisciplinary, covering the disciplines of geology, mining, minerals processing, microbiology, thermodynamics, chemistry, water and environmental sciences, sustainability, process modelling and simulation in close cooperation between academia and industry. A total of 16 companies and research organisations from seven EU member states, as well as from South Africa and Turkey, are participating in the project: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Outotec, Boliden Kevitsa, University of Oulu, Ima Engineering, Aalto University and Lappeenranta University of Technology (Finland); BRGM and Caspeo (France); Montanuniversität Leoben (Austria); GreenDelta (Germany); Anglo American (UK); Amphos21 (Spain); Somincor (Portugal); Hacettepe Mineral Technologies (Turkey) and University of Cape Town (South Africa). Cooperation will ensure the exchange of information of best practices in the EU and internationally.
Prof. Kari Heiskanen is the Exploitation Manager for the project, representing Outotec Finland Oy. Last year the international company was ranked for the second time as the world's third most sustainable company (MEI Online) and we are proud to have the company as a major sponsor of Sustainable Minerals '18 next year, where we hope to hear a lot more of the progress of the ITERAMS project.
Twitter @barrywills

1 comment:

  1. Barry,
    It reads very exciting and I am sure that this is the kind of integrated approach needed for the development of mineral industry and its acceptance by society. Well documented data with details of results, if widely published would be of global value.
    Let me congratulate Outotec for thinking beyond the regular operations of mineral exploitation.


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