One of the environmental concerns associated with mining operations is the waste water that gets left over afterwards. Though the water goes through a purification process to later be reused, it often takes decades to complete the process. With billions of gallons of water at stake, this is simply too long of a wait. But, thanks to new technology, the process may soon be done in hours, rather than years.
So, how is water actually used in mining? It’s used for mineral processing, dust suppression, and transportation. Once it’s done its job, however, it is left with byproducts called clay effluent. The current methods of water purification from mining involve water being taken to settling ponds so the particles can sink to the bottom – but it’s a lengthy process since the particles are electrically charged and naturally repel each other, which prevents them from all settling together.
While mining wastewater does get reused in future projects, the length of time it takes to purify the water is a major drawback since only the clean water at the top of the settling pond is usable. Soon, however, thanks to new methods, water may be able to be used and reused continuously.
The new purification system uses charged electrodes to attract the charged particles in the water. These particles are brought to the bottom and form a solid “cake,” leaving the water above clean. This allows it to be reused again and again; and even the cake will serve a vital function, filling in holes created during mining.
While this method is still in the testing phases, it’s exciting to see such a major development in this industry. We look forward to seeing what other innovations come about in mining operations.