Water in Sustainable Hydrometallurgy

Funding Details
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
  • Grant type: Discovery Grants Program - Individual
  • Years: 2018/19 to 2019/20
  • Total Funding: $92,000
Keywords
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Project Summary

With increasing global awareness for the needs of sustainable development, exploitation of natural resources respecting the environmental and societal impacts has become the centerpiece of policy makers around the world. Hydrometallurgy uses water-based chemistry and engineering for metal recovery from natural mineral resources and mining wastes by employing a variety of chemical conditions within a wide range of temperatures and pressures. The present research programme constitutes an on-going effort that focuses on improving the efficiency of water recovery, recycling and quality monitoring in the natural resource industry. It continues theoretical advances backed by experimental measurements in sustainable hydrometallurgy. The proposed research aims at discovering new energy efficiencies for process water purification for metallurgical plant reuse by forward osmosis and freeze-thaw crystallization. By using soluble inorganic electrolytes recoverable by eutectic freeze crystallization technology the energy cost of forward osmosis can be further minimised. We will also investigate the fundamentals of ice growth in multicomponent electrolyte systems using advanced techniques to improve the quality of produced ice. Freeze-thaw crystallization is relying on the natural freezing of the surface waters that occurs naturally in Canadian winters. An engineered process can separate clean water from contaminated process solutions, tailings waters and effluent streams. The underlying hypothesis is that these processes can achieve better water separation efficiency in terms of energy requirements and quality of water produced than current technology. An additional project aims at furthering the development of robust sensors for monitoring redox water chemistry in high temperature process waters using advanced signal processing techniques. Overall, the proposed research program aims at the hydrometallurgy of efficient net water usage. The program will train three doctoral, one post doctoral and fifteen undergraduate/summer students in sophisticated techniques on water chemistry and sensors on processes encountered in the minerals industry under complex experimental conditions. This work contributes to the Canadian economy by investigating novel ideas in the minerals sector that renders metal producers more competitive in the global markets to satisfy the world demand for metals produced in an environmentally respectful, sustainable and sound manner.*