Waste is a critical issue in the mining industry. Reducing the amount of waste generated and reusing it to create value-added products are key focuses in the mining sector. This article will explore SoilCyclers’ solutions for reducing mining waste and improving the industry’s circularity.
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Mining Waste: A Critical Issue
Mining waste includes all solid, semisolid, and liquid materials produced during ore extraction and processing. Waste rock, soil, mine water, sludge, mine tailings, gangue, and various processed materials must be disposed of safely and in an environmentally responsible manner.
The amount of waste generated fluctuates each year. The average annual amounts of mining waste are not closely related to the sector’s annual production. One factor that affects the amount of waste generated per year is the chemical composition of extracted ore. Nevertheless, the waste generated by the sector is significant.
Improper waste management and disposal can lead to environmental pollution, affecting vulnerable ecosystems and local populations. Critical issues can occur, such as groundwater contamination and the increased instance of health problems in workers and people living near mines.
Mining waste is not just an issue with active mines. Significant amounts of waste remain in legacy mines which cause environmental issues even decades after mining operations cease. Remediating the environmental damage caused after a mine has closed is expensive and time-consuming.
Current Methods of Managing Mining Waste
Current approaches to managing waste in the mining industry include disposal, overburden management, and recycling. Due to the vast amounts of waste generated globally every year, correct waste management is essential to avoiding key issues such as environmental damage.
Huge amounts of slurry are generated during ore processing and treatment, with free water in this slurry reused in refining and processing plants. Rock waste in the slurry is disposed of in waste piles and tailings dam embankments.
Several methods are used to dispose of tailings. These include pond storage, release into the ocean, dry stacking, and underground storage. Appropriate disposal methods depend on the type of tailings.
Overburden is typically managed by backfilling. This type of mine waste can provide essential nutrients, optimal pH, and good moisture content for new tree growth, which is especially important for environmental remediation in legacy mines.
Recycling mineral and metal waste materials is a growing solution to the environmental issues faced by the modern mining industry. Waste can be reduced by reprocessing to extract additional minerals and using waste for construction purposes in mines.
Mine waste can also be reused in several industries. For instance, in the construction industry, mine waste can be used as aggregates in asphalt or building materials such as concrete. Many studies have demonstrated that mining waste can improve construction materials' mechanical and physical properties.
How SoilCyclers is Helping to Reduce Mining Waste
SoilCyclers focuses on the reduction and remediation of multiple types of mine waste materials. The company was previously known as Brisbane Screening. One of the main goals of the company is to make onsite recycling a business-as-usual approach in the mining industry.
The company recycles nearly half a million cubic meters of soil and works with multiple governmental bodies, councils, mine developers, waste management businesses, and mine sites. SoilCyclers can handle both small and big projects to ameliorate harmful mine waste.
The Company’s Technological Solutions
SoilCyclers operates multiple types of equipment for many mine waste removal and recycling needs. Several services, such as topsoil amelioration, mobile composting, landfill mining, and geotechnical soil amendments, are offered by the company.
SoilCyclers offers PFAS immobilization in soil and techniques to reduce PFAS leachates for safe onsite reuse or landfill disposal, asbestos-contaminated soil remediation, acid sulfate soil remediation, and converting unsuitable waste materials into useable topsoil for uses such as in sports fields.
Through partnerships with other contractors in the waste disposal industry, the company can offer soil testing, in situ amelioration, soil slinging and spreading, and revegetation solutions for operations such as legacy mines. The company operates across the infrastructure, subdivision, waste, mining, and defense sectors.
All the company’s equipment is mobile and can be easily and quickly set up to provide efficient and cost-effective mining waste remediation and recycling. SoilCyclers employ mobile trommel screens, excavators, radial stackers, stockpilers, and skid steers.
The Company’s Impact on the Mining Industry
The Queensland Mining Awards have recognized SoilCyclers’ impact on the mine waste remediation sector. The company took home the 2022 Queensland Mining Contractor of the Year reward. The judges recognized the company’s forward-thinking and innovative approaches to mine waste management and amelioration.
The mobile, on-site solutions offered by the company reduce the environmental impact of mine waste remediation. Reduced truck movements during projects mean that SoilCyclers can significantly mitigate emissions.
These environmental savings were recognized in the Queensland Mining Awards, alongside the company’s innovative, cost-saving solutions for turning mine and coal overburden into viable topsoil for use in multiple industries.
By providing cost-effective onsite recycling and reuse of critical mine waste materials, SoilCyclers approach helps to improve the circularity of the mining industry. Efficient conversion of overburden and waste materials into viable topsoil creates a value-added product that would otherwise be disposed of in landfills.
The company’s solutions, therefore, satisfy one of the UN’s sustainable production goals – SDG 12, which aims to encourage industry to employ new technologies and business models to achieve circular production and move the world away from its overwhelming linear economy model, and help to realize a post-carbon, post-linear economy future.
Other awards have recognized the company’s impact in the mine waste management and remediation sector, including the BHP Tailings Challenge, QMCA Innovation and Excellent Awards, and the WE Empower UN SDG Challenge. The company has won several awards and has been a finalist in multiple other awards.
The scale of waste from active and legacy mines is vast and presents a key challenge for the mining industry. Removing waste materials from the environment and reusing them for value-added products provides a route toward circularity and sustainability in the mining industry.
Through forward-thinking and collaborative approaches such as those offered by SoilCyclers, the global mining industry’s future is increasingly becoming one where sustainability and circularity are central focuses and where the environmental and societal impact of the industry is significantly mitigated.
References and Further Reading
SoilCyclers [Online] Available at: https://soilcyclers.com.au/
Queensland Mining Awards. 2022 Winners [Online] qldminingawards.com. Available at: https://qldminingawards.com/2022-winners/
Lawson, E. (2020) Understanding Mining Waste Management and Disposal Methods [Online] canadianmagazine.com. Available at: http://canadianminingmagazine.com/understanding-mining-waste-management-and-disposal-methods/
US Environmental Protection Agency. Metal Mining Waste Management Trend [Online] epa.gov. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/trinationalanalysis/metal-mining-waste-management-trend