A team from the University of Exeter designed and built a pilot water treatment plant, specifically engineered to remove contamination from waste water from mines while using much less energy than any of the existing plants.
The scientists claim that the plant, in its current state, reduces the capital cost by 30%, and has the potential to cut it even further. The technology might even bring additional revenue, because it allows recovering of valuable metals.
The mining industry has always been a source of numerous toxic pollutants. Waste water plants require detailed and precise monitoring in order to prevent contaminants from leaking into the environment. This process is highly energy- and labor intensive and is often associated with high costs and very strong environmental impact.
Having these considerations in mind, the team of scientists from the Camborne School of Mines and Minus Engineering at University of Exeter decided to explore the possibilities of developing a technology, which can take care of the job but at the same time lower the expenses that come with it.
The technology that they designed is a true innovation. Called NeutraSeal, it can remove various contaminants from the waste water, including some of the highly mobile ones like manganese and sulfate, which can easily end up in drinking water supplies. In addition, the system optimizes the neutralisation and aeration processes and because it harnesses a static head of water, it does not require additional pumping technologies.
The pilot plant is currently being tested near an abandoned tin mine in Cornwall, but the unique modular design of the facility and the fact that it is completely sealed off, makes it suitable and reliable in any environment. It also allows recovery of some of the metals that are found in the waters, which can even bring additional revenue.
The team is hoping that the benefits and savings that the plant introduces will be the crucial selling point that will attract great interest and hit the commercial market soon. The facility is currently open to anyone from the mining business interested in a demonstration of the plant’s performance.