A UHU project to purify mine acid water for agricultural use

The University of Huelva (UHU) is committed to fulfil an optimisation project of those which are known as acid waters of the mining operations to convert them in an irrigation resource for vineyards and citrus production. Although the purification of mining discharges is not a new topic, the method that is to be applied through the Life-Etad project ensures environmental and economical sustainability. The province of Huelva is an authentic emmental cheese. The mining activity that took place for more than 2.000 years in the Iberian Pyrite Belt (FPI) that crosses the province is the responsible for what is presently considered an authentic jigsaw.

The result of that mine industry – there is presently an estimated 100 abandoned mines – is a countless number of slag heaps and pits, which are a serious environmental problem that reaches even Atlantic waters. The phenomenon, which took place for centuries, consists of acid mine drainage – AMD – which have never stopped being produced in those areas. This drainage consists of water that undergoes an alteration of its PH to acid levels which nullifies its potability. This AMD produces acidity, sulphates, metals and toxic metalloids which are to be found in those slag heaps and are subject to a natural oxidation process. The basins of the main rivers in the Huelva region have all been affected by that phenomenon, although the Odiel river undergone the most detrimental effects. The basins of the main rivers in the Huelva region have all been affected by that phenomenon, although the Odiel river undergone the most detrimental effects. The Andévalo distrct, located in the west side of the province, counts on the greater number of abandoned mine explorations. The teacher responsible for the Geology subject at the University of Huelva (UHU), José Miguel Nieto Liñán, is in charge of setting up the Life-Etad project, financed by the European Union with over 2.5 million Euros and an completion time till 2017. The teacher explains that “the cleaning process of water deriving from the mining activity is not something new; the Aguas Teñidas mine, quarry presently operating, owned by the company Matsa does it already”. Nevertheless, the project goes much further than that. It aims at providing an integral response to AMD at affordable costs. This is translated by the system that the Life-Etad project pursues: a passive treatment with a strong ecological inspiration, which aims at using that water as an irrigation resource for vineyards and citrus production, and positions it at levels that establish the pre-potability requirements. Nieto stresses the innovation of the project: “Japan counts on an area of 80 mines that pour acid waters, actively treated, a totally different level from our proposal.”

The process that allows such purity level of water consists of a decantation system in which the reactive reservoir acquires special relevance and has the goal of rising the PH with which the metals precipitate to the bottom of that reservoir. One of the objectives that remains unclear is the location for the development of the project. Although experts have not still come to an understanding, most probable the choice will be Mina Concepción, in Almonaster la Real. The Life projects are purely environmental and deal with other topics as the protection of the lynx. The Junta de Andalucía and the company Sacyr also participates in the project that presently draws our attention.

 

Source: Huelva Información

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