With a shared mission of sustainability, global miners BHP and Rio Tinto are collaborating on technological developments to boost water recoveries from mine tailings as well as to reduce safety risks and environmental presence at storage facilities.
The companies, which announced their teaming on 30 October, have selected Chile for their first test project – specifically, an innovative large-volume filter unit at a BHP copper mine. The end goal is to remove up to 80% of the water in the tailings stream before it is deposited in a storage facility.
Rio Tinto said its portion of the project involves bringing in its experience from implementing smaller-scale tailings filters for bauxite residues at alumina refineries since 2005, though both miners will work in collaboration with leading technology and equipment providers, technical experts, research groups and the academic sector.
“Manufacture of the filter unit is already underway,” the two said, noting that pilot construction will begin in early 2023 and operations are scheduled to commence in early 2024. The pilot will test the potential of a large-scale tailings filter unit for scalability and cost-effectiveness across global mining operations.
An additional benefit to the project, according to the companies, is that extra recovered water could be re-used in processing facilities, reducing overall water consumption.
“The world will need more critical minerals in the decades to come to support economic development and decarbonisation pathways,” BHP CTO Laura Tyler said.
“It is important that we keep working together across the global mining sector to raise standards and make sure our operations are as safe and sustainable as they can be. Responsible management of tailings and improved water use is a big part of that.”
Source: riotinto.com and bhp.com