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:: Greening Our Mining Landscape
A three-year research project - 'Acid Mine Drainage' - has provided the mining industry with innovative tools and techniques to forecast and manage acid mine drainage with greater accuracy and benefits to the environment.
One of the research program leaders, Professor Roger Smart from the Ian Wark Research Institute at the University of South Australia has reported the principal outcomes of the project.
"The research team has substantially increased the understanding of what happens in the NAG test, improved the basis of assessment of acid and non-acid producing sulphides, and developed different forms of the test that give an indication of the lag time before materials start generating acid in certain conditions.
"In April this year we produced an acid rock drainage test handbook to make accurate assessment of mining waste easier and help Australia's mining industry to modify procedures and get more reliable information to better manage the handling of wastes.
"We also improved the classification of wastes, reducing the categories from five to four through correct allocation of the previously 'uncertain' waste category.
"This has resulted in categories for acid consuming wastes (that may be useful for mixing with wastes that produce acid), essentially non-acid forming wastes, acid forming wastes of low capacity and acid forming wastes of high capacity," Professor Smart said.
The research project has been established for its industry sponsors by the mineral industry research association, AMIRA International Limited and has been commonly known by its AMIRA designation, P387A.
Project sponsors of the project were Placer Pacific Ltd, Rio Tinto Ltd, Newcrest Australia Ltd, PT Freeport Indonesia Ltd and the Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy, who collectively contributed AUD$786,000.
The project also attracted significant support from the Australian Research Council with an extended three-year grant worth $595,000.
Leading edge work
AMIRA's Dr Paul Greenhill, Group Leader - Resource Transformation, said, "This was leading edge research in this topic," and he paid tribute to the three research contractors that have worked on the project.
These were the Ian Wark Research Institute - "probably the leading institute in its area of mineral processing worldwide," Environmental Geochemistry International (EGI) and Levay and Company Environmental Services.
"The type of work that has been done has given the industry some terrific tools to improve its ability to predict whether or not acid mine drainage is going to occur and, in particular, how much.
The project has produced the crucial tools and techniques for companies' forward planning and the researchers are to be really highly complimented on their work."
Dr Greenhill said that there was a very strong belief among industry sponsors that the researchers had made an enormous contribution to the global mining industry.
"If the outcomes of this project can make a few per cent difference to the $60 million annual burden on mining in Australia - and it will make a significant difference to the waste management cost - then savings of many millions of dollars for the industry can be achieved.
"Australia compares favourably with a number of other countries where the problem is several times greater. If we apply that globally, the technologies that we have developed will help these countries to significantly reduce the impact and cost of managing acid mine wastes."
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