The Asia Miner

JUL-SEP 2019

The ASIA Miner - Reporting Important Issues to Mining Companies in the Asia Pacific Region

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the asia miner • volume 16 • issue 3 19 WASTE TO ENERGY The Erzgebirge is set to become a model region for the forward-looking treatment of residual materials from the mining industry. Up to €15 million will be made available from the funding program WIR! (Wandel durch Innovaঞonen in der Region [We: Innovaঞon for change in the region]) under the auspices of the project rECOmine( Ressourcenorienঞerte Umwelechnologien für das 21. Jahrhundert [rECOmine: Resource-oriented environmental technologies for the 21st century]) set up by the German Federal Ministry of Educaঞon and Research. The aim of the program is to promote new methods within the region – and subsequently for the world market – where tailings and metal-rich water from the mining industry can be sustainably reclaimed, and valuable residual materials economically extracted. The project is coordinated by the Helmholtz Insঞtute Freiberg for Resource Technology (HIF), which is part of Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR); and is run by TU Bergakademie Freiberg and SAXONIA Standortentwicklungs-und verwaltungsgesellscha[. The rECOmine project offers companies and insঞtuঞons on either side of the German-Czech border in the Erzgebirge region a plaorm for networking with each other, pooling experঞse across industries and developing innovaঞve technologies for sustainable remediaঞon and extracঞon of raw materials from the waste generated by industrial mining. "To accomplish this, we want to combine the experঞse in the environmental and resource sector that exists in our region with the available know-how in the fields of automaঞon and digiঞsaঞon," says HIF Director and Project Coordinator Dr Jens Gutzmer. "There are two sides to residues from mining," explained Dr Gutzmer. "They have a negaঞve impact on the environment, yet sঞll contain finely distributed raw materials in low concentraঞon. "To some extent, these are already recycled, but only in rare cases is this also associated with remediaঞon. That's our starঞng point." In the past few months, various experts have discussed novel concepts for dealing with contaminated sites, in which the extracঞon of valuable materials goes hand in hand with the eliminaঞon of pollutants. More than 60 partners from industry, the service sector, science, research, academia and professional associaঞons have already signed up to the network. Following a successful presentaঞon in Berlin, the parঞcipants can now apply for funding on the rECOmine plaorm which funcঞons as the relevant awarding system. The focus is on three common types of residues from mining and subsequent mineral processing: tailings from mining and beneficiaঞon, slag and ashes from the metallurgical industry and water from mines and tailings. All three variants originate from both the historical and modern-day acঞviঞes of the raw material extracঞon industry in the Erzgebirge. "That's a big advantage for our associaঞon," says Professor Urs Peuker, Prorector for Structural Development at TU Bergakademie Freiberg. "It means that innovaঞve technologies can be tested under pracঞcal condiঞons. Several industrial operators and owners of suitable residual materials have expressed their willingness to make their sites available for pilot tests with real tailings, slag and water. This not only offers our scienঞsts unique opportuniঞes for working in new and exciঞng fields of research but at the same ঞme facilitates the pracঞcal training of our students in maers relevant to the future." Within five years, the partners aim to develop marketable technologies that can be deployed in the Erzgebirge and will also prove aracঞve in the internaঞonal arena. Foremost among the plans are smaller decentralised plants that will allow the economically efficient extracঞon of low-concentraঞon raw materials. Many applicaঞons are conceivable, from the processing of hitherto unremediated tailings to the separaঞon of valuable metals from mine water. Another aim of the new network is to contribute to improving the economic structure of the Erzgebirge region as well as retaining and aracঞng specialists in the raw materials sector. Furthermore, the coordinators want to involve the general public by raising awareness of the issues surrounding raw materials and to improve cross-border cooperaঞon with companies from the Czech Republic. On a global scale, the potenঞal for the local sourcing of raw materials and for environmental technologies is enormous. According to research by the rECOmine consorঞum, for example, there are tens of thousands of acঞve and historic mining and metallurgical sites worldwide where the concepts and technologies currently developed could be successfully applied. An environmental burden today, a resource for tomorrow The Davidschacht tailing contains the residues of the beneficiaon of lead, zinc and copper ores in Freiberg. Image source ©HZDR

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