Sulfate removal from mine leachate – development of full-scale bioreactor system (SULFREM)


Roger Herbert




Purpose and goal

It is not uncommon for metal mining to lead to a release of sulfate into the environment. Since high sulfate levels can have consequences for the environment, there is a need to develop methods for removing sulfate from mine drainage. The aim of this project is to develop a full-scale bioreactor technology for sulfate removal from mine waters, with a special focus on leachate from waste rock deposits. The goal of the project is to contribute to more sustainable mining by reducing the impact of sulfate release on surface water recipients.

Expected results and effects

By implementing the SULFREM treatment method, mining companies will be able to greatly reduce their sulfate discharges from waste rock deposits to the environment. This will lead to an increased likelihood that a new or renewed permit for operations will be granted, and an improved acceptance of the mining operations by the local community.

Planned approach and implementation

The project consists of laboratory experiments, bioreactor design, field-based activities, and communication of results. In the laboratory, column experiments are conducted for determining optimal conditions for sulfate removal and sulfide precipitation at low temperature. In parallell, the project focuses on the design, construction, operation and evaluation of the full-scale treatment system. The recovery of metals from the bioreactor media is evaluated as well, and the results will be communicated to various actors and end-users.