Cleaning mining contaminated rivers

A new system that can prove to be a weapon in the recovery of rivers with severe contamination levels caused by mining activity. The pioneering proposal is being tested in the Odiel basin. The work has been evolving thanks to the LIFE ETAD project, co-financed by the European Union, with the participation of the company Sacyr Construcción, in the quality of engagement partner, the Consejería de Medio Ambiente, through Agencia de Medio Ambiente y Agua and the University of Huelva. José Miguel Nieto, the researcher of the University of Huelva in charge of the project, explained that the mine acid waters are “the result of the interaction of water with sulphides and mine waste, filled with acid and metals” that end up in the river basins contaminating the water, as in the case of the rivers Tinto and Odiel in Huelva.

For this reason, the developed system, that presented positive laboratory results, applies a treatment that “allows turning these contaminated waters into clean waters, in an ecological, low cost manner”.

The project is considered “ecological”, because “it does not consume electricity nor reagents”, it is thus a “passive treatment”, with “zero” energy cost, since the design of the equipments has been thought to work by means of gravity, which allows the water to flow from a part of the system to the other and the cost of consumables to be minimum, since only small grains of limestone and calcium carbonate are used as reactive substrate”.

For this reason, Nieto ensures that this treatment system opens decontamination possibilities (once the patent is registered) for many rivers with a similar problem to those of the Iberian Pyrite Belt, while the expected result is to state the viability of passive technologies for acid mine drainage, the improvement of the quality of the water in the area and the use of new technologies that would solve a serious environmental problem of waters affected by the mining activity.



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