Breakthrough technology revolutionises metal recovery from mine waterThe project team from the left: Tuija Solismaa-Pirnes (Laboratory Manager, ...

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Breakthrough technology revolutionises metal recovery from mine waterThe project team from the left: Tuija Solismaa-Pirnes (Laboratory Manager, ...
Breakthrough technology revolutionises metal recovery from mine water
The project team from the left: Tuija Solismaa-Pirnes (Laboratory Manager, Weeefiner), Elmeri Lahtinen (CTO, Weeefiner), Mikko Hänninen (CEO, Weeefiner), Toni Laurila (CEO, Sensmet) ja Miisamari Jeskanen (Laboratory Manager, Sensmet).

Former mines can adversely impact local water resources. Many different water treatment methods are available to meet this requirement, but they can be costly and vary in their levels of efficiency. However, many of them can be costly and vary in their levels of efficiency.

As a solution, Weeefiner and Sensmet are developing an Intelligent Recovery Unit (IRU) that offers revolutionary advantages in both process efficiency and selective recovery of important minerals and rare earth metals. The solution combines Weeefiner's recovery and water treatment technology with Sensmet's online measurement technology required for process control.

Weeefiner, promoting circular economy, has focused on innovative water treatment solutions that simultaneously enable the recovery of dissolved materials. Weeefiner’s 4D Scavenger® technology can change the way water is treated in many different industries. In the IRU project, the objective is to customise the technology to meet the specific needs of the mining industry.

“To-date, water treatment methods at mining sites have focused on decontamination by precipitation, which requires large amounts of chemicals such as lime, and represents a heavy carbon footprint,” explains Mikko Hänninen, Weeefiner CEO.

“This process also produces sludge that contains contaminants and represents a further disposal challenge. At Weeefiner, our highly selective 4D Scavenger technology is designed to target and extract dissolved metals for reuse, which significantly reduces the downstream water treatment burden. Mining sites will be able to use the IRU to produce sustainable raw materials while simultaneously meeting regulatory requirements.”

The IRU project is being implemented in collaboration with Sensmet
Laboratory analysis would not be feasible at most remote sites because that would be costly and would incur a significant delay. Sensmet's µDOES® analyser can provide real-time, simultaneous quantification of dissolved metal concentrations, such as Ni, Co, Li, Mn and Cu. The µDOES® enhances the IRU by measuring metal concentrations both before and after 4D Scavenger® treatment, enabling automated process optimisation.

Explaining the potential of µDOES® analyser technology, Sensmet CEO, Dr Toni Laurila says:

"Previously, Sensmet has demonstrated the advantages of real-time analysis of metal concentrations in battery recycling and production processes, resulting in increased efficiency, lower costs, higher output, and improved product quality. However, our technology offers numerous benefits to a wide range of industries that need high quality real-time analysis on-site. We are therefore delighted that our cutting-edge analytical technology is being utilised in the IRU collaboration to optimise the recovery of strategic metals while reducing negative impacts on the environment.”

Financial award from Rio Tinto's Sustainable water treatment challenge program
The IRU project recently received a funding award from a Rio Tinto program known as ‘Mine-influenced water - sustainable water treatment challenge’, through which successful applicants may receive up to US$2 million of co-funding over three years. Explaining the thinking behind the scheme, Rio Tinto’s Nick Gurieff says: “We recognise the responsibilities we have as long-term stewards of natural resources, and we are committed to understanding and mitigating the risks and impacts of our operations from the beginning of an operation’s life to beyond closure.