Abstract

Chemical, physical and biological technologies for removal of sulphate from mine tailings pond water (8 g SO42−/L) were investigated. Sulphate concentrations of approximately 1,400, 700, 350 and 20 mg/L were obtained using gypsum precipitation, and ettringite precipitation, biological sulphate reduction or reverse osmosis (RO) after gypsum pre-treatment, respectively. Gypsum precipitation can be widely utilized as a pre-treatment method, as was shown in this study. Clearly the lowest sulphate concentrations were obtained using RO. However, RO cannot be the only water purification technology, because the concentrate needs to be treated. There would be advantages using biological sulphate reduction, when elemental sulphur could be produced as a sellable end product. Reagent and energy costs for 200 m3/h tailings pond water feed based on laboratory studies and process modelling were 1.1, 3.1, 1.2 and 2.7 MEur/year for gypsum precipitation, ettringite precipitation, RO and biological treatment after gypsum precipitation, respectively. The most appropriate technology or combination of technologies should be selected for every industrial site case by case.

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