ITERAMS project: Reinventing water and waste consumption in mining

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Bergbau (Foto: stafichukanatoly / Pixabay)

Finland – The ITERAMS project „Integrated Mineral Technologies for More Sustainable Raw Material Supply“ funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 programme is reinventing water and waste in mining. The new methods developed in the project will offer the EU the potential to be in the forefront with regard to minimal waste, minimal energy and minimal water consumption in the mining sector.

Mining has been and is still 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 over 90 percent of the total mass. The ITERAMS project targets 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 focuses on the complete isolation of process waters from the adjacent water systems.

Additional: Recovery of valuable constituents

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. The closure of water cycles will inevitably increase the process disturbance, temperature and instability and result in a dynamic situation that has so far never been worked on. The completely closed water cycles can be realized only if the tailings can be filtered and stacked dry.

The geopolymer technology has long been recognized as providing the potential for immobilization of hazardous components in the structure and thus providing a safe method for utilizing mine tailings in value added applications. The use of geopolymers as water- and oxygen-tight covers on the deposited tailings, as hardening mine fill or as sellable products will be demonstrated in the project. To this end, the tailings streams will be modified for their easier geopolymerisation.

New holistic water and waste concepts

The project will maintain Europe at the forefront in the fields of efficient water circulation and sustainable tailings utilization. The project develops new holistic water and waste concepts and systems, which will result in higher technical, economic and environmental performance in raw materials production.

The developed ITERAMS water and waste efficient concepts are 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) were selected to validate the results in various conditions, for example in various mineralogical and geographical areas. Information from laboratory tests, process assessment and technology validation is used for development of the water recycling testing protocol.

16 companies and research organisations participating

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is acting as the coordinator of the EU-funded three-year ITERAMS project. The project will end on 31 May 2020 and has a total budget of EUR 7.9 million.

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.

More information can be found under iterams.eu.

Source: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd