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Next-gen tech helps clean up mining

While mining is often associated with environmental damage, excessive energy and water use and safety issues, it’s also a vital global industry that creates countless jobs and sustains local businesses and economies. Next-gen tech helps clean up mining – it’s also a vital global industry that creates countless jobs and sustains local businesses and economies.

Recognising the importance that mining has on economies around the world, pioneering thought-leaders are seeking to strike a balance between economic returns and environmental and social impacts.

Developing innovative solutions to clean up mining operations and reduce the impact of mining on land, water, biodiversity and people, these leaders are introducing next-generation technologies to help clean up mining globally.

Energy efficient solutions

Energy efficiency has been a focus for mining companies looking to ‘go green’ for some time but some mining operators have taken their efforts to the next level.

Many miners are using vehicles powered by clean diesel fuel, and in some cases, alternative energy sources including solar energy.

In Canada, a massive 7MW solar power plant was recently constructed by B2Gold at its Otjikoto mine in Namibia. Not only will this solar plant result in lower emissions but it will also reduce the site’s reliance on heavy fuel oil.

Safety first

By leveraging integrated sensor technology and device connectivity, miners across the globe are improving productivity and mining safety.

Major players in the mining automation realm are offering sophisticated solutions, such machinery cameras that integrate with intelligent IT systems that ‘learn’ and automatically identify both process and safety improvements.

On-the-ground, other companies like Northern Light Technologies (NLT) are looking directly at the hardware worn by mine workers to improve mine safety. The company has taken an innovative step of using cap lamps used by underground mine workers to enable personnel tracking, as well as a range of other safety, security, and productivity applications.

Wastewater reuse

Losing water through mining operations is a significant issue for local communities as well as impacting long-term environmental sustainability. Beyond excessive use of water, wastewater from ore processing and other mining activities can be highly toxic, posing a serious threat to those who come into contact with it.

Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO , has developed a new technology to treat mining wastewater and reduce sludge by up to 90%.

The technology – called Virtual Curtain – removes contaminants from wastewater after extraction. This results in rainwater-quality water which is suitable for reuse or for release into the natural environment.

Environmentally sound processing reagents

CSIRO has also been involved in decade-long research to address the environmental and health risks associated with the use of poisonous chemicals like cyanide and mercury in gold mining.

The risks associated with these toxic chemicals have been elevated in recent years, leading some countries to ban the use of cyanide altogether.

Likewise, more than 25 major tailing dam failures from 2007 to 2018, has led questions to be raised about how safe and efficient traditional methods of capturing and storing mining waste actually is.

Introducing a safer, environmentally-friendly and less hazardous alternative to toxic reagents and potentially eliminating the need for tailing dams, Clean Mining has worked with CSIRO to introduce new processing technology – the new gold standard in responsible mining.

The technology, which hit the market in June 2019, replaces cyanide or mercury with a commercially viable reagent containing thiosulphate – a non-flammable, water-soluble organic compound that dissolves fine gold out of ores into a solution. The compound can be recovered and reused, presenting the prospect of eliminating tailing dams in future.

The technology, which was developed by CSIRO over more than a decade, was tested in collaboration with Eco Minerals Research Ltd – the parent company of the Clean Mining Ltd group and is now available to companies worldwide.

It’s one important product being offered in a growing segment of the mining industry, which is gaining traction and attention and which is likely to grow as governments, communities and miners themselves identify a need to clean up mining.