Use of Alternative Water Resources in Copper Leaching Processes in Chilean Mining Industry—A Review

Norman Toro, Edelmira Gálvez, Pedro Robles, Jonathan Castillo, Grecia Villca, Eleazar Salinas-Rodríguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Due to the significant growth of the world population, the accelerated growth of economic industries in various countries, and improved living conditions, freshwater consumption has increased dramatically and is currently under critical pressure. Its good use and rationing are essential. Even though mining is an industry that consumes much less water than other industries, such as agriculture, surrounding communities are constantly questioned. This occurs mainly because mining deposits are generally found in arid areas where freshwater is scarce, forcing government authorities to regulate water use in mining processes more severely. Faced with this scenario, the mining industry has innovated the use of seawater and wastewater from processes for its production processes. In addition, various projects are under development to construct desalination plants and water impulsion systems of the sea; therefore, it is expected that seawater and/or wastewater in mining will continue to grow in the coming years. Among the main challenges faced in the use of these water resources in mining is: (i) the close relationship that exists between the use of seawater and energy consumption, transferring the problem of water scarcity to a problem of energy cost overruns; (ii) generation of greater integration between the use of water and sustainable energy; and (iii) brine management is economically expensive and technically challenging and, therefore, most desalination plants discharge untreated brine directly into the sea, causing an environmental impact. On the other hand, regarding the use of these water resources in leaching processes, there are very positive results for the dissolution of copper from sulfide minerals, where the wastewater from desalination plants presents better results than seawater due to its higher concentration of chloride ions, allowing it to work at higher redox potential values in order to increase copper dissolution. This manuscript is a bibliographic review in which finally, it is concluded that it is feasible to incorporate wastewater from water desalination plants in heap leaching processes for copper sulfide ores, as long as the cost of transfer from water desalination plants to mining sites can be supported.

Original languageEnglish
Article number445
JournalMetals
Volume12
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Copper mining
  • Leaching
  • Reject brine
  • Seawater
  • Wastewater

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