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Application of Space Resources Research for Mining Waste Remediation

OU researchers Dr Richard Windmill and Prof Mahesh Anand have obtained SPRINT funding for a project investigating synergies between SPS’s world leading in situ resource utilisation (ISRU) research and terrestrial mine waste remediation and remining.  This project will commence in January 2022 in collaboration with X-ray Mineral Services Ltd, a company based in North Wales who are active in tailings remediation and remining. 

The project will evaluate areas where ISRU techniques can best aid tailings remediation and remining.  A recent Natural Resources Wales report identified 1300 abandoned metal mines in Wales alone that have impacted over 600 km of river reaches through acid mine drainage and metal contamination, tailings are a contributor to these problems. The application of these techniques in this way could facilitate the clean-up of historical mine tailings in locations where they are currently an environmental concern.

Additionally, many of these spoil heaps contain elements of economic interest that were not the target resource during the initial extraction.  Therefore, the study will also assess the potential of a cost-effective technique for extracting these mine tailings for economically significant minerals (e.g., lithium, indium etc.) Lessons learned from terrestrial applications would contribute towards further refinement and development of ISRU techniques for sustainable space exploration.