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Treatment of acid mine drainage in admixture with domestic wastewater

Theresa Hughes

Supervisor: Prof. Nick Gray

Mineral extraction processes commonly leave sulphide ores exposed to water and oxygen.  Oxidation of sulphide minerals, especially pyrite (FeS2), creates an acidic, metal- and sulphate-rich effluent known as acid mine drainage (AMD) which may emanate from mine adits, shafts, spoil tips and waste rock deposits.  AMD poses a major environmental threat to receiving waters, and, if left untreated, may destroy aquatic ecosystems.  The objectives of this project are two-fold: (1) to formulate an algorithm for designing optimum AMD treatment systems for a given site, and (2) to investigate co-treatment of AMD with wastewater.  The first objective will be based on an investigation of AMD treatment systems currently used to remediate abandoned mine sites, and a literature review of case studies to identify the most appropriate systems for a site, given specific hydrological, mineralogical, and physical parameters.  The second objective will be based on a laboratory investigation of the potential of combining sewage treatment provision with the treatment of AMD using the standard activated sludge process.  The objective is to determine how AMD can be treated at a standard domestic wastewater treatment plant without interfering with normal treatment processes while providing a sustainable and reliable method of disposal for this major pollutant.  Reactor performance will be measured in terms of final effluent quality, metal removal rates, the fate of sulphate, and activated sludge biomass assessment.  The results will provide a unique process design with the potential to recover valuable metals.  

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Last updated 14 December 2009