Toward a more sustainable mining future with electrokinetic in situ leaching

Evelien Martens, Henning Prommer, Riccardo Sprocati, Jing Sun, Xianwen Dai, Rich Crane, James Jamieson, Pablo Ortega Tong, Massimo Rolle, Andy Fourie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Metals are currently almost exclusively extracted from their ore via physical excavation. This energy-intensive process dictates that metal mining remains among the foremost CO2 emitters and mine waste is the single largest waste form by mass. We propose a new approach, electrokinetic in situ leaching (EK-ISL), and demonstrate its applicability for a Cu-bearing sulfidic porphyry ore. In laboratory-scale experiments, Cu recovery was rapid (up to 57 weight % after 94 days) despite low ore hydraulic conductivity (permeability = 6.1 mD; porosity = 10.6%). Multiphysics numerical model simulations confirm the feasibility of EK-ISL at the field scale. This new approach to mining is therefore poised to spearhead a new paradigm of metal recovery from currently inaccessible ore bodies with a markedly reduced environmental footprint.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabf9971
JournalScience Advances
Volume7
Issue number18
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

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