Suspended Electrodialytic Extraction of Toxic Elements for Detoxification of Three Different Mine Tailings

Suspended Electrodialytic Extraction of Toxic Elements for Detoxification of Three Different Mine Tailings

P.E. Jensen L.M. Ottosen  H.K. Hansen  S. Bollwerk  L.J. Belmonte  G.M. Kirkelund 

Department of Civil Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark

Departamento de Ingeniería Química y Ambiental, Universidad Técnica Federico Santa Maria, Valparaíso, Chile

30 April 2016
| Citation



Environmental effects of mining activities partly origin from the production of tailings, and the exposure of these to ambient physical and chemical conditions. Removal of toxic elements from tailings prior to deposition could improve environmental performance and reduce risks. Experimental results have shown that electrokinetic treatment can remove Cd, Cu, Pb, and Zn from tailings soils; As from tailings; and Cu from tailings. Still, however, a major concern is the long treatment-time required for the element-transport through the tailings matrix. Therefore several enhancement methods have been investigated including pre-treatment of the tailings with acid; insertion of bipolar electrodes; and implementation of pulsed or sinusoidal electric fields. In line with these efforts, we investigated the efficiency when extracting toxic elements from a suspension of tailings, rather than from a solid matrix, which could well be implemented as a final treatment step prior to deposition of tailings. Six electrodialytic experiments in laboratory scale with three different mine tailings (Codelco, Zinkgruvan, and Nalunaq) show that it is possible to extract residual Cu from the all the three suspended mine tailings, although with some difference between the tailings. From the Zinkgruvan sediment, which had the lowest Cu removal, Pb could also be extracted, while Cd and Zn were less extractable.


decontamination, detoxification, electrodialysis, heavy metals, mine tailings, remediation, resource recovery


[1] Kim, S.O. & Kim, K.W., Monitoring of electrokinetic removal of heavy metals in tailing-soils using sequential extraction analysis. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 85, pp. 195–211, 2001.

[2] Kim, S.O., Kim, K.W. & Stüben, D., Evaluation of electrokinetic removal of heavy metals from tailings soils. Journal of Environmental Engineering, 128, pp. 705–715, 2002.

[3] Baek, K., Kim, D.H., Park, S.W., Ryu, B.G., Bajargal, T. & Yang, J.S., Electrolyte conditioning-enhanced electrokinetic remediation of arsenic-contaminated mine tailing. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 161, pp. 457–462, 2009.

[4] Isosaari, P. & Sillanpää, M., Effects of oxalate and phosphate on electrokinetic removal of arsenic from mine tailings. Separation and Purification Technology, 86, pp. 26–34, 2012.

[5] Hansen, H.K. & Rojo, A., Testing pulsed electric fields in electroremediation of copper mine tailings. Electrochimica Acta, 52, pp. 3399–3405, 2007.

[6] Hansen, H.K., Lamas, V., Gutierrez, C., Nuñez, P., Rojo, A., Cameselle, C. & Ottosen, L.M., Electro-remediation of Cu mine tailings. Comparing Cu removal efficiencies for two tailings of different age. Minerals Engineering, 41, pp. 1–8, 2013.

[7] Jensen, P.E., Ottosen, L.M., Hansen, H.K. & Kirkelund, G.M., Suspended electrodialytic remediation for detoxification of copper-mine tailings. Proceedings of International Conference on Sustainability in Mining in the Arctic, ed. P.E. Jensen, Arctic Tecnology Center, Technical University of Denmark, pp. 81–86, 2013.

[8] Rojo, A., Hansen, H.K. & Ottosen, L.M., Electrodialytic remediation of copper mine tailings; Comparing different operational conditions. Minerals Engineering, 19, pp. 500–504, 2006.

[9] Hansen, H.K., Ribeiro, A.B., Mateus, E.P. & Ottosen, L.M., Diagnostic analysis of electrodialysis in mine tailing materials. Electrochimica Acta, 52, pp. 3406–3411, 2007.

[10] Hansen, H.K., Rojo, A. & Ottosen, L.M., Electrokinetic remediation of copper mine tailings - Implementation of bipolar electrodes. Electrochimica Acta, 52, pp. 3355–3359, 2007.

[11] Rojo, A., Hansen, H.K. & Campo, J.D., Electrodialytic remediation of copper mine tailings with sinusoidal electric field. Journal of Applied Electrochemistry, 40, pp. 1095–1100, 2010.

[12] Rojo, A., Hansen, H.K. & Cubillos, M., Electrokinetic remediation using pulsed sinusoidal electric field. Electrochimica Acta, 86, pp. 124–129, 2012.

[13] Lee, K.Y., Yoon, I.H., Lee, B.T., Kim, S.O. & Kim, K.W., A novel combination of anaerobic bioleaching and electrokinetics for arsenic removal from mine tailing soil. Environmental Science and Technology, 43, pp. 9354–9360, 2009.

[14] Ottosen, L.M., Jensen, P.E., Kirkelund, G.M., Ferrira, C.M.D. & Hansen, H.K., Electrodialytic remediation of heavy metal polluted soil – treatment of water saturated or suspended soil. Chemical Engineering Transactions, 28, pp. 103–108, 2012.

[15] Hansen, H.K., Rojo, A., Pino, D., Ottosen, L.M. & Ribeiro, A.B., Electrodialytic remediation of suspended mine tailings. Journal of Environmental Science and Health Part A, 43, pp. 832–836, 2008.

[16] Windsor, C.R., Cavieres, P., Villaescusa, E. & Pereira, J., Rock stress tensor measurements at El Teniente Mine, Chile. Proceedings of International Symposium on In-situ Rock Stress, eds, M. Lu, C.C. Li, H. Kjørholt & H. Dahle, pp. 67–72, 2006.

[17] Rojo, A., Hansen, H.K. & Guerra, P., Electrodialytic remediation of copper mine tailing pulps. Separation Science and Technology, 44, pp. 2234–2244, 2009.

[18] Hedstroem, P., Simeonov, A. & Malmstrom, L., The Zinkgruvan ore deposit, southcentral Sweden; a Proterozoic, proximal Zn-Pb-Ag deposit in distal volcanic facies. Economic Geology, 84(5), pp. 1235–1261, 2008.

[19] European Commission, Management of Tailings and Waste-Rock in Mining Activities. European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies: Seville, Spain, p. 511, 2009.

[20] Lövgren, L., Hedlund, T., Malm, L. & Karlsson, T., Immobilisation of trace metals in sulfidic mine tailings. Proceedings of the 11th International Mine Water Congress, –Mine Water – Managing the Challenges, eds. T.R. Rüde, A. Freund & C. Wolkersdorfer, IMWA, Aachen: Germany, pp. 387–392, 2011.

[21] Secher, K., Stendal, H. & Stensgaard, B.M., The Nalunaq gold mine. Geology and Ore, 11, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, 2008.