Cost-optimized sustainable water management in the mining industry based on membrane processes

T. Peters*, Membrane Consulting, Germany

No other area of industrial activity in our world exhibits such a diverse and multi-faceted water-related field of conflict as actually the mining industry. The influencing factors range from the procurement of the absolutely necessary process water with drinking water quality in areas of water shortage to the environmental damage caused by wastewater originating from mining related treatment processes. This includes its large-volume storage that cannot yet be assessed from a long-term perspective and the related increase of the life-threatening potential. In addition to the water supply problem in arid regions and the disposal problem for tailings, for example, more stringent environmentally-specific legal requirements - which are intended to contribute to increasing the protection of human health and the ecological balance of water bodies – and increasing public awareness are also leading to significant changes in water management internationally and, in the opinion of leading economic experts, are forcing short-term changes in corporate strategy in the mining industry. This problem area also includes acid mine drainage (AMD), the acidic saline mine water resulting from leaching processes in the mines.

The requirements for more efficient water treatment in the mining industry have led to the development of sustainable and cost-optimized processes for the treatment of water or wastewater which have not yet been used in water management in these applications but have proven themselves elsewhere. In addition to the optimization of conventional processes, this increasingly includes the pressure-driven membrane processes microfiltration, ultrafiltration, nanofiltration and reverse osmosis. Their mode of action and the possible applications in the mining industry that can be derived from them are discussed using examples.

It should be noted that, depending on the type of the substances to be treated and the required discharge limit values for the remaining liquids, specifically adapted processes or process combinations can again be used for an efficient treatment of the residual substances that originate from the individual processes. The range of possibilities to be oriented towards economic and ecological standards extends from the reuse and extensive use of all recyclable materials still contained in the residues to waste water-free (ZLD = Zero Liquid Discharge) or residue-free operation.

It should also be mentioned that the process related details and interrelations addressed in the presentation are intended to provide a phenomenology-based basic understanding of suitable processes for the treatment of water, waste water and process fluids, which in collaboration with experts can then be used for the investigation, planning and implementation of successful large-scale applications.

Session: M5 - Process and Waste Water Treatment
Day: 23 October 2019
Time: 13:00 - 14:15 h

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