Scientists from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) of Australia have developed a new technology, Virtual Curtain, which can treat mining water and eliminate sludge by up to 90%.
Developed by CSIRO scientist Dr Grant Douglas and team, the technology was first tested at Queensland mine, where it was used to remove metal contaminants from mining wastewater.
The technology successfully treated wastewater and safely discharged rainwater-quality water that would have filled around 20 olympic-size swimming pools.
The curtain also reduced the sludge, a semi-solid by-product of wastewater treatment, by up to 90%, making the technology suitable for both the environment and economy.
Douglas said that the treatment produced only a fraction of the sludge that a conventional lime-based method would have, and allowed the mine water to be treated in a more environmentally sound way.
"Reducing the amount of sludge is beneficial because the costly and timely steps involved to move and dispose it can be reduced," Douglas said.
The new technology can be used by the mining firms to improve their water management practices, as the mining industry is expected to generate millions of tonnes of wastewater every year.
Douglas said that the technology can produce a material high in metal value, which can be reprocessed to increase a miner's overall recovery rate and partially offset treatment costs.
"If required, the treated water can be purified much more efficiently via reverse osmosis and either released to the environment or recycled back into the plant, so it has huge benefits for mining operators in arid regions such as Australia and Chile," Douglas added.
"It is a more efficient and economic way to treat wastewater and is enabling the global mining industry to reduce its environmental footprint and extract wealth from waste."
Image: The new Virtual Curtain technology is being used to remove a range of metal contaminants from mining wastewater. Photo: courtesy of CSIRO.