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Wastewater solution can aid ESG goals

An image of Felix Fondem

FELIX FONDEM EPSE will purify mine water to the requirements of the client, whether they require potable water or only to a level that is acceptable for environmental discharge, in accordance with, for example, South African National Standards

Photo by Creamer Media

24th March 2023

By: Nadine James

Features Deputy Editor

     

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Mining companies are facing increasing scrutiny around their environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), and an area that can reduce energy consumption, and environmental and societal impact is proper wastewater management, says Finnish wastewater solutions provider EPSE Oy CEO Jouni Jääskeläinen.

He explains that wastewater treatment is becoming more important for miners and mining stakeholders because the world has changed significantly over the last five to ten years, in large part because of the effects and concerns around climate change.

“There is a scramble to find, improve and implement generation solutions that use ‘greener’ energy sources; there is a war in Europe which has exacerbated concerns around energy security. And everyone is looking for more minerals and metals to help solve the energy and climate crises.”

Jääskeläinen says that climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts are currently focused on prioritising the production of ‘clean’ energy, which, in turn, has led to a focus on mining. Moreover, because of the growing stigma associated with mines that pollute the environment, battery manufacturers, and consumers more generally, refuse to buy commodities from mines that perform poorly in ESG compliance.

“They won’t deal with you if you haven’t taken care of the environment, of the water and waste management. It was evident at the Indaba that mining companies are seeking more environment-friendly solutions, and to find ways to recycle more water and produce less waste and pollution.”

EPSE partner and international operations head Felix Fondem explains that the EPSE Method can help mines remove hazardous metals, as its process converts the soluble metals contained in hazardous waste into environmentally harmless insoluble metals and a source of raw material for other industry applications.

The solution is based on a patented EPSE Method chemical process, which, while designed to tackle the metals that are typically contained in mining waste, is also capable of significantly reducing sulphate and alkali concentrations and can be used to purify water to a potable level.

“We will purify water to the requirements of the client, whether they require potable water or only to a level that is acceptable for environmental discharge, in accordance with, for example, South African National Standards.”

The EPSE solution focuses on improving existing systems, rather than replacing wastewater management processes or treatment plants. EPSE can also adjust its solution’s chemical composition to ensure that the existing treatment systems work as envisioned.

“Apart from the pure business perspective, namely, improving treatment efficiency, the simplicity of managing the process, the minimal amount of capital expenditure needed to integrate our treatment into the existing plant and processes, and the subsequent savings, you also have the social and environmental benefits,” says Fondem.

These include reducing the mine’s environmental impact liability, maintaining good community relations and potentially reducing raw water consumption as the purified water can be reused on operations. The latter is particularly important in water-stressed regions.

The SCOPE Unit

The EPSE process typically progresses from laboratory-scale to piloting. However, during the sluggish period that resulted at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, but also throughout the resultant lockdowns, EPSE sought a means of reducing the time it took to produce a fully operational industrial-scale pilot.

Enter SCOPE, also known as Scalable, Continuous, Process Equipment.

Jääskeläinen says the SCOPE test unit uses the same operational principles as EPSE’s piloting equipment, but is smaller, which reduces costs. SCOPE is designed to simulate EPSE’s industrial-scale piloting equipment to demonstrate the functionality of the EPSE Method, without having to transport heavy-duty equipment to a mine site.

Its use provides reliable data for the eventual development of a pilot in terms of monitoring the reactions that occur with site-specific wastewater.

He comments that SCOPE has reduced the piloting timeline from weeks to mere days. This is because a significant part of the EPSE Method relies on pH control and adjustment, and SCOPE automates this aspect.

SCOPE also enables treatment of samples as a continuous process at a capacity starting at 0.5 ℓ. The comparatively small sample size is meant to reduce the cost of transporting samples from EPSE’s sites.

“That’s a basic guide. SCOPE was developed to save time, save customers’ resources, and to help them get to a pilot-scale solution as smoothly and as quickly as possible,” Jääskeläinen says.

Fondem adds that SCOPE’s design also has the benefit of avoiding the worst effects of the ongoing energy crisis.

“Obviously the SCOPE solution is a lot more energy efficient, and consumes a lot less energy, given its size. Potential clients would often send requests asking if our solution was able to operate at a site with irregular power supply. We had already factored irregular or limited energy supply into our pilot units. The SCOPE solution goes even further, because it has become evident that we are facing an energy crisis.”

Indaba Participation

EPSE exhibited at last month’s Investing in African Mining Indaba – under the umbrella organisation Mining Finland – with Fondem noting that the Indaba has been a “flagship-sort of yearly event” since EPSE first launched.

“South Africa has been our entry into the mining industry market and the mining industry is our flagship application. So, Mining Indaba has been a key event for us.

“Our goal for this year’s Indaba was to revive connections and developments that were put on hold during the pandemic, and to look for some new potential partnerships, clients and contacts. I think we did very well. In fact, it was way beyond our expectations,” he concludes.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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