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How new technologies are helping mining companies to come clean

January 6, 2015

How new technologies are helping mining companies to come clean

Oliver Balch
Tuesday 6 January 2015 17.48 GMT

The devastating effects of mine wastewater are regrettably obvious: polluted rivers and streams, dead aquatic life and countless hardships for downstream populations. Mining companies are under increasing pressure to contain, control and clear up contaminated water from their operations.

One knock-on effect is the mining industry’s emergence as “one of the most dynamic” markets for water and wastewater treatment, according to a recent report by industry analysts Frost & Sullivan. By 2016, the industry’s demand for water-treatment equipment and services is expected to be worth $3.6bn (£2.3bn).

While regulatory trends explain much of this growth, another force is also at work: the rising value of metal recovery. Historically, wastewater treatment was catergorised exclusively as a business cost, but advances in metal-removal technologies now mean there could be money to be made too. “Metal recovery is especially interesting on the precious metals side, such as gold, copper and [other] highly valuable metals,” says Fredrick Royan, global research director for environment markets at Frost & Sullivan.

Almost any marketable metal extracted from wastewater could prove profitable. And any revenue stream that helps offset the expense of mandatory wastewater merits consideration, according to Adrian Brown, a wastewater consultant and former president of the International Mine Water Association (IMWA). “[Mining firms] are pretty much stuck with treating the wastewater whether it’s economic or not,” he says. “So suddenly any metal recovery is beneficial in the sense that it has the ability to either reduce your project costs or, at the very least, to dispose of the extracted material from your project at zero or no cost.”

Read more at The Guardian.

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