A new cost-effective technology to treat mining wastewater and reduce sludge by up to 90 per cent has been used for the first time at a commercial mine. The technology, called Virtual Curtain, was used to remove metal contaminants from wastewater at a Queensland mine and the equivalent of around 20 Olympic swimming pools of rainwater-quality water was safely discharged. Sludge is a semi-solid by-product of wastewater treatment and reducing the amount produced has huge environmental and economic benefits. “Our treatment produced only a fraction of the sludge that a conventional lime-based method would have and allowed the mine water to be treated in a more environmentally sound way,” CSIRO scientist Dr Grant Douglas said. “Reducing the amount of sludge is beneficial because the costly and timely steps involved to move and dispose it can be reduced.” Given the Australian mining industry is estimated to generate hundreds of millions of tonnes of wastewater each year, the technology opens a significant opportunity for companies to improve water management practices and be more sustainable. “The technology can produce a material high in metal value, which can be reprocessed to increase a miner’s overall recovery rate and partially offset treatment costs,” Dr Douglas
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