There is a great need to find more environmentally friendly mineral extraction methods. Society continues to need these minerals for essential commodities that keep things running. At the same time, mining has been responsible for a lot of erosion, deforestation, and greenhouse gases.
This is where in situ recovery mining rises as a promising case for the reality of environmental mining. Its environmental impact is significantly lower than traditional mining. Essentially, you would not even need to build a mine.
What is In Situ Recovery?
In situ is a Latin phrase that means “on-site.” In terms of the mining process, in situ recovery is able to get minerals from underground without having to disrupt the soil or break ground.
Using fluids pumped down into the ground, minerals are dissolved from ores. The minerals are then pumped back up into the surface for collection. This removes the need for physically moving the geological space of the area.
This method involves using hydrogen peroxide, sulfuric acid, baking soda, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and depending on the actual deposit, either alkaline or acidic liquid.
Benefits of In Situ
If you’re still unconvinced about the potential of in situ, let’s break down the advantages of in situ mining.
First, it is much quieter and causes less vibration than traditional mining. Any noise pollution and disturbances that mines would have produced are nixed.
Second, it is much more environmentally friendly. There is no need to use huge equipment to disrupt the land and create shifts that may affect the structure of the space. It is also not associated with the oil sector, which is one of the biggest proponents for pollution.
Next, it is simply more cost-effective. It uses up water efficiently, so it will be able to recover back any usage. That hits the mark both for cost-effectiveness and lowered environmental impact.
Because it doesn’t cut into the earth, too, it means that mining operations become much safer for workers. There is no prolonged exposure to chemicals and airborne dust. Plus, there is no more risk of falling victim to cave-ins.
Limitations of In Situ
Of course, in situ still has its limitations as an alternative to traditional mining. There are still studies that continue to improve and expand the scope of this method, so it remains to be seen whether these limitations will still persist. For now, the main barrier for in situ recovery is that it doesn’t work for all types of minerals and environments.
For instance, if the geology is not permeable or leachable, there will be problems. And, even if the deposit of choice manages to overcome these marks, it still needs to be below the water table so that the solution can transport the necessary minerals back up without disrupting the water flow.
The main challenge is finding the perfect condition for mining, though wells can be sunk to make the environment right. The main rule that is followed is that projects will not push through if there’s any major environmental damage.
Although in situ recovery is still not accessible to all kinds of mining, it’s a great step forward. There are many situations and minerals where this method already applies, so adopting it can be a great stride toward more cost-efficient and sustainable mining. As studies continue and innovations rise, we only need to wait and see where in situ will grow next.
Who says mineral extraction needs to be harmful? Group 11 is dedicated to implementing mindful, socially responsible, and environmental mining solutions. Contact us today to learn more!