Mine Waste: From Pollution Source to Georesource
Mining produces visual and geochemical impact on the environment with the production of important amounts of mine waste. WP5 research activities focus on the elimination, stabilization, and rehabilitation of mine waste in order to minimize the environmental impact and increase the sustainability and social acceptance of the extractive industry.
The key to develop a sustainable and socially accepted mining industry, is to minimize the amount of waste produced and that the final waste will not pollute the environment. In order to reach this goal, detailed mineralogical and geochemical characterization is key information in order to be able to accurately predict the behaviours of the material in different geochemical environments, but also to design new material streams to produce new products from material which formerly was considered waste. Therefore, the development of a world class characterization facility for mineralogical and geochemical analyses at LTU is a key issue of our activities, were we combine enrichment techniques like hydroseparation with automated quantitative mineralogy and isotopic studies (in collaboration with ALS Scandinavia AB). The produced data from the solid (Mineralogy, Geochemistry), as well the aqueous phase (Hydrochemistry, Hydrogeology), allows us to understand and predict accurately the environmental behaviour of each element during and after georesource exploitation. This information also helps to develop more environmental methods for raw material extraction. Special focus is given for critical and toxic raw elements like for example Be, W, Rare Earth Elements (REE), Platinium Group Elements (PGE), as well as battery metals like Co, Ni, Li. We also develop bioremediation strategies for emerging pollutants like nitrogen. For long-term predictive models geochemical tools like reactive transport modeling is used.
On the other side, we provide techniques and methodologies to continuously evaluate tailings dam safety based upon measurements taken and numerical simulations of the dam. The longterm impact of weathering processes on dam stability is also focus of our combined research efforts.
Thus, we seek to increase the resource efficiency and minimize the environmental impact of mining; i.e. to search for additional commodities like sand or industrial minerals, exploration and re-mining of mine tailings and integrate these innovative concepts into the development of sustainable mining cities concepts by integrating Mining – Architecture – Cement Technologies in order to attract diversified industries to a mine area.
Trends and innovations within the research subjects
- WasteToMine: Transformation of mine waste as a pollution source into a georesource through characterization and increase of the extraction efficiency.
- Sand and industrial minerals as new and additional commodity from mine tailings.
- Sustainable city design through resource characterization and attraction of secondary industries (e.g. solar panels, glass, cement).
- Sourcing of critical Raw Materials and development of environmental friendly extraction methods.
- Emerging contaminants: Nitrogen control through bioremediation in mine tailings
- Influence of secondary mineral formation during the geochemical weathering of mine tailings on the long-term impoundment stability.