Waste as a Resource
Resource Recovery from Mine Waste
Published:01 Jul 2013
R. A. Shaw, E. Petavratzi, and A. J. Bloodworth, in Waste as a Resource, ed. R. E. Hester, R. M. Harrison, R. Harrison, and R. Hester, The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2013, pp. 44-65.
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Rock and mineral waste from the extraction of metals and minerals from the Earth is produced on a vast scale. The characteristics of mine waste are described, along with how this material relates to the nature of original mineral deposits. The influence of the method of mining and processing on the type and volume of waste is described, along with various potential environmental impacts of the waste material. The economic and environmental factors that influence the recovery of resources from mine waste are discussed and a brief overview is given of the various metallurgical technologies available to separate resources from waste. A series of case studies are given which focus on the recovery of relatively high value metals from various waste streams which result from the extraction and processing of alumina (scandium, yttrium, vanadium and rare earth elements), nickel (cobalt, nickel), gold (gold, silver), copper (cobalt, copper) and zinc (indium). The current low level of resource recovery from mine waste is noted and some of the reasons behind this low level of utilisation are explored. Increased future demand for metals is likely to drive up prices. This will provide a strong incentive for mine operators to re‐examine their waste streams as potential sources of alternative products. The environmental and ethical requirements to improve mine output whilst minimising the environmental footprint might also prove a powerful driver to better utilisation of mine waste as a resource.