Genesys International states reverse osmosis technology is being widely adopted both to clean up and reuse mining waste water and to concentrate metals for enhanced recovery.

By reverse osmosis specialist Genesys International mining business development manager Phil Morton (Phil is a fully qualified mining engineer from the Camborne School of Mines. He has over 10 years of deep knowledge in fossil fuel, complex base and precious metal mining operations in the UK, Australia and most recently, Saudi Arabia).

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 6 2018

Over 300 membrane plants are operating around the world treating water in mining processes.

Genesys won a £1/2million research grant in 2017 from the UK Government industrial initiative: Innovate UK, to investigate calcium sulphate scaling in membrane separation technology plants utilised within mine water management.

Max Fazel senior research chemist at the Genesys R&D centre at Middlewich Cheshire UK has been conducting a series of threshold tests, flat sheet membrane and pilot plant experiments to gain greater understanding of calcium sulphate solubility at varying pH and levels of soluble metals.

MD Steve Chesters explains how Genesys got involved in the mining market.

“In 2012 some independent studies were conducted on calcium sulphate antiscalants for reverse osmosis membranes and Genesys CAS came out on top.

“Unknown initially to us in the UK, large quantities of Genesys CAS were being ordered and shipped to Peru, after a bit of investigation we realised the product was being used at a couple of gold mines in Peru.

“This then started a series of support visits by Fernando del Vigo of Genesys Spain to the Peru mines to monitor and optimise the antiscalant use and conduct membrane autopsies and cleaning tests.”

The sheer volume of business prompted Chesters to investigate further and having established the widespread use of membrane plants in mining, the research grant was applied for and granted.

Myself, the Genesys mining manager who worked at Glencore’s Mount Isa Mines for five years, was hired in 2016.

The complexity of mining water chemistry means each mine and reverse osmosis membrane plant has different requirements.

Because Genesys is uniquely set up to conduct membrane autopsies, run scaling tests we can formulate site specific antiscalants for any mine in the world.

Products have been tailored for the different mines and leaching processes in Peru and recently Australia where high levels of Barium and silica have meant newly formulated ant-iscalants are required.

With the help of the mining grant, Genesys was able to adapt their existing scaling prediction software and rewrite the chemistry book for extremes of pH and scale formation that is actually found in mining.

“Conventional reverse osmosis antiscalants simple don’t work at these pH extremes,” comments Chesters, who is optimistic that with the new products and software improvements can be made in the operation of RO plants.

A huge amount of work has been completed, through running synthesised mine waters and conducting autopsies on reverse osmosis membranes received from companies such as Barrick, Newmont, to the point where we already have three uniquely bespoke development products ready for industrial testing.

What has become clear is that there is no ‘one stop shop’ product for these mine waters.  They are as unique and changeable as the ore body being mined.

Breakthrough discoveries within the early stages of the study has also implemented a change in Genesys’s scale prediction software.

We have identified that the chemistry outside of pH range 3-9 is historically ‘assumed’ and therefore our developing mining client base require a new version of Membrane Master4 that is specifically tailored for the issues associated with mine waters – Membrane Mine Master.

Genesys is currently engaged with a number of operations and miners and have recently sent their development products out to Newmont & Roy Hill.

We are continuing to increase our understanding of mine water chemistry and are looking for further engagement of operations and mining companies who are treating their mine water via membranes so we may understand and create a solution for their specific problem and by having the grant awarded means we can do this at no cost to the client.

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