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A solution of the problem of mining waste could provide significant environmental improvements.

Rust never sleeps

Published: 27 June 2016

In a new research project, researchers at Luleå University are trying to find methods to reduce mine waste oxidation. It is a challenge of major proportions in which a solution of the problem would provide substantial environmental improvements.

Rust Never Sleeps is the title of a song and an album by Neil Young from 1979. That rust never sleeps, most car owners are aware of, likewise that cars in southern Sweden rust faster than in the north of the country because of the humid climate and salted roads. Rust is produced when iron oxidizes in the presence of water and oxygen. Likewise, mine waste oxidize when in contact with oxygen. This can lead to acid mine drainage with high metal concentrations as a result. To reduce oxidation of mine waste by preventing its contact with oxygen is the overall objective of this project.

"We are trying to find a method to use the green liquor dregs, an industrial waste product from pulp production, as a cover on top of the mine waste and thus reduce its contact with oxygen and by that prevent oxidation", said Susanne Sirén, a PhD student in Applied Geology at Luleå University.

The aim of the project is to use alternative materials to develop a system to cover the mine waste and to produce guidelines and quality control of the cover system.

"Other industrial wastes will also be examined and possibly mixed with other materials to find the ultimate mix for the purpose", says Susanne Siren.

The research project is part of the Strategic Innovation Programme for the Swedish Mining and Metal Producing Industry SIP STRIM and is financed by Vinnova, The Swedish Energy Agency, Formas and Boliden.