Treatment of acid mine water by use of heavy metal precipitation and ion exchange
Acid mine water from a South African gold mine was characterised and treated by the precipitation of heavy metals with lime and sulphides, followed by ion exchange. The novelty of the proposed process lies in the use of carrier magnetic materials for more effective separation of water and solids, as well as the oxidation pretreatment that is also used to sterilize the water. The process can generate very pure water from acid mine water with a great flexibility and an acceptable cost. The oxidation and precipitation of heavy metals with lime and subsequent sulphide-carrier magnetic separation appeared to be particularly suitable for the removal of heavy metal ions from the effluent of the particular gold mine that was investigated. The cation exchange resin IR120 can be used to reduce the salinity of the effluent of mine water after removal of heavy metals by precipitation. Low cost sulphuric acid can be used as the cation resin regenerator. The anion exchange resin A375 could reduce the anions (sulphate, chloride, bromide and fluoride) to acceptably low levels in the mine water after precipitation of heavy metals. A combination of sodium hydroxide and saturated lime solution can be used as the anion resin regenerator. A mixture of acidic gypsum from the cation elution section and alkaline gypsum from the anion elution section could generate high quality gypsum as by-product, which could be sold as a valuable raw material to the gypsum industry, to offset process cost. Although these experiments were conducted on the acid mine water of a specific mine, the process could be extended to other mine waters contaminated with heavy metals and high salinities.