Mining companies such as Rio Tinto and Barrick Gold are beginning to adopt greener technologies, spawning a cottage industry of companies aimed at helping the mining industry clean up after hundreds of years of inefficiencies and waste, according to a report by cleantech research and advisory firm Kachan & Co.
The mining water and wastewater treatment market is expected to grow from $2.29 billion in 2011 to $3.60 billion in 2016, according to research by Frost & Sullivan, Kachan & Co. says. The increased adoption of such green technologies is driven primarily by cost savings, but market volatility, falling commodity prices, decreasing productivity, policy changes and social justice scrutiny are also key drivers, according to Emerging Green Mining Innovation: Managing risk and profiting from new mining technology breakthroughs.
Mining giant Rio Tinto is one example of a company adopting greener technology. The company currently runs a pilot mine in New South Wales, Australia, that tests methane capturing technologies and a carbon dioxide storage project in Victoria, Australia. The Victoria site has so far stored more than 60,000 metric tons of CO2. The company now plans to trial new technologies aimed at capturing and reducing CO2 and methane emissions, the report says.
Likewise, Barrick Gold currently has 140 energy efficiency projects across its operations and now sources more than 19 percent of its electrical power from renewable energy. The company also implemented water management and recycling and zero discharge programs. As a result, 36 percent of the water used by the company now comes from brackish sources — preserving valuable drinking water — and 70 percent of its sites operate under zero discharge programs and reuse recycled water.
Companies springing up to help provide environmentally friendlier technologies to these newly green mining operations include Ecosphere Mining. The Ecosphere Technologies subsidiary focuses on water reclamation and recycling products. The company’s Ozonix technology is a chemical-free treatment for bacteria, soluble organics and hydrocarbons found present in residual wastewater streams produced by the mining industry.
Consol Energy’s newest facility can treat a maximum flow of 3,500 gallons per minute of mine water with no liquid or solid waste from the water treatment operations leaving the property. Veolia Water operates the facility for Consol.
Companies such as PapaBravo Innovations have developed electric utility vehicles for the mining environment. A recent push for zero emission mining vehicles has driven PBI’s introduction of new product lines including an electric-power, 23 metric ton hauling platform.