Revolutionary technology to reclaim precious metals from mine water, paving the way for a greener future
May 10 2023
In a significant breakthrough for environmental sustainability, two Finnish technology providers, Weeefiner and Sensmet, are collaborating on a ground breaking water treatment solution. Their joint effort aims to selectively recover metals from mining-impacted waters while addressing the challenges posed by end-of-life mining sites. This pioneering development project has secured funding from Rio Tinto Group's sustainable water treatment challenge program, highlighting the industry's recognition of the urgent need for innovative solutions.
Former mining sites have long been known to pose a threat to local water resources. To safeguard the environment, numerous water treatment methods have been employed, albeit with varying degrees of efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Weeefiner and Sensmet seek to revolutionize this landscape by introducing an Intelligent Recovery Unit (IRU) that not only enhances process efficiency but also enables the selective recovery of critical minerals and rare earth metals. Weeefiner will provide the metal recovery and water treatment solution, while Sensmet will contribute the online measurement technology for continuous process control.
Weeefiner, known for its commitment to a circular economy, has focused on innovative water treatment solutions that facilitate the simultaneous recovery of dissolved materials. The game-changing 4D Scavenger® technology developed by Weeefiner has the potential to transform water treatment processes across various industries. In the context of the IRU project, Weeefiner aims to tailor this technology to suit the specific needs of the mining industry.
Mikko Hänninen, CEO of Weeefiner, explains the advantages of their selective technology, stating, "Current water treatment methods at mining sites rely on decontamination through precipitation, which involves extensive chemical usage such as lime, resulting in a significant carbon footprint. Furthermore, this process generates sludge containing contaminants, posing additional disposal challenges. At Weeefiner, our highly selective 4D Scavenger technology is designed to target and extract dissolved metals for reuse, significantly alleviating the burden on downstream water treatment. Mining sites will now be able to produce sustainable raw materials while effectively meeting regulatory requirements."
To optimize the performance of the IRU, continuous monitoring and control are essential. Given the impracticality and expense of conducting laboratory analyses in remote sites, Sensmet's µDOES® analyser provides real-time, simultaneous quantification of dissolved metal concentrations, including Ni, Co, Li, Mn, and Cu. Designed to withstand rigorous industrial conditions, the µDOES® analyser offers the same analytical performance as laboratory ICP-OES while streamlining the measurement process. It serves to enhance the IRU by monitoring metal concentrations before and after treatment, enabling automated process optimization.
Dr. Toni Laurila, CEO of Sensmet, highlights the potential of the µDOES® analyser, stating, "Previously, our technology has proven its benefits in real-time analysis of metal concentrations in battery recycling and production processes, resulting in increased efficiency, reduced costs, higher output, and improved product quality. However, the advantages of our cutting-edge analytical technology extend to a wide range of industries that require high-quality on-site analysis in real time. We are thrilled that our analytical technology is being harnessed in the IRU collaboration to optimize the recovery of strategic metals while minimizing environmental impact."
Recognizing the urgency of finding sustainable solutions for mine-impacted water treatment, Rio Tinto has granted funding to the IRU project through its "Mine-influenced water - sustainable water treatment challenge" program. Successful applicants, such as Weeefiner and Sensmet, can receive up to US$2 million of co-funding over three years.
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