Rio Tinto has called on the mining, equipment, technology and services (METS) sector to find a solution to remove selected particles from mining water resources.
The major miner is seeking to improve water recovery while reducing residual waste for improved environmental outcomes and creating an extra revenue stream.
Rio Tinto will accept applications for the challenge until April 28 and these can be submitted via the Austmine website.
Austmine has facilitated many similar challenges as it represents the METS sector and all 630 members across Australia.
The organisation has advocated for Australia’s METS sector to be recognised as a global leader for over 30 years. Austmine and Rio Tinto expect this wastewater challenge to be yet another important step in the industry’s development.
“We want to partner with solution providers to develop projects that can overcome current challenges at a number of our closed assets and emerging challenges at some of our currently operating assets that are transitioning to closure,” Rio Tinto stated.
“These projects will play an integral part in the R&D (research and development) pipeline of opportunities for the next three years and beyond.”
The project aims to identify, support, validate and implement solutions that remove contaminants known to adversely affect downstream processing and which limit recovery processes.
It also seeks to recover high value particles of copper, nickel, cobalt, lithium, zinc and manganese to develop a new revenue stream.
Rio Tinto will fund or share costs on individual projects from $US50,000 to $2 million ($69,560 to $2.78 million) to be paid in cash or in the form of prototyping and testing, subject matter expertise and wastewater samples.
It was not disclosed where the winning solution would be implemented.
Rio’s relationship with wastewater
The concept of wastewater recovery hits especially close to home for Rio Tinto after a long history of dealing with the issue at the Panguna copper mine in Papua New Guinea.
In July 2021, the miner agreed to assess the lasting environmental impacts of the mine after the local community called for action.
Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm said the company was actively engaging in the investigation process.
“Stakeholders have raised concerns about impacts to water, land and health and this process will provide all parties with a clearer understanding of these important matters, so that together we can consider the right way forward,” Stausholm said in mid-2021.
Despite not having had access to the mine since 1989 – 29 years before Stausholm joined the company – the chief executive showed understanding of the importance of taking responsibility for past actions.
“We take this seriously and are committed to identifying and assessing any involvement we may have had in adverse impacts in line with our external human rights and environmental commitments, and internal policies and standards,” he said.