It is estimated the liability associated with the management of mine wastes in Canada and the US is in excess of $50 billion. Canada is examining options to reprocess and repurpose mine wastes to reduce environmental impacts and recover valuable by productions such as critical and strategic metals.
While some technologies exist to reprocess mine wastes particularly for metal recovery (e.g. gold and silver) a holistic approach to look at mine waste as a source of secondary metals and other valuable industrial minerals has not been undertaken. Several key aspects must be examined, particularly the de-risking of technology implementation, addressing regulatory and policy barriers and clarifying the economics for tailings reprocessing/repurposing.
Scientific research and technology development related to mine waste reprocessing and repurposing will be undertaken in five main areas:
- Metal recovery to increase revenue;
- Metal removal/stabilization to decrease environmental contamination/liabilities;
- Desulphurization to prevent acidic drainage;
- By-product opportunities to valorize wastes;
- Alternative applications to repurpose mine wastes.
To support and inform the research and development on waste reprocessing, supplemental studies on relevant policies and regulations, techno-economic analysis and environmental risk profiles are also being undertaken.