Zero-Footprint Mining

XPRIZE recently attended the CESCO conference in Santiago, Chile, and hosted a Zero-Waste Mining Prize Design workshop. There, industry professionals collaborated on potential Prize Designs they would like to see disrupt the mining industry and tackle the problem of waste.

Ultimately, the attendees pitched six Prize Designs, and the majority were focused on developing technologies for use upstream in the mining process. There was considerable excitement around the idea of “Zero-Footprint Mining,” or minimally-invasive mining technologies that do not involve the removal of huge amounts of rock or radically change landscapes.

In order to impact waste globally, such a technology would:

    Reduce or eliminate the creation of waste during operation Reduce the need to create and manage waste downstream Not increase inputs such as energy and water Be economical relative to current technology
  • Be scalable enough to be adopted across the industry
What are some existing or conceptual technologies that fit these criteria? What impactful ideas are out there that could use help in becoming real-world solutions?

Here’s a link about the XPRIZE workshop at the conference! Looking forward to seeing everyone’s further feedback and ideas on these topics here in the Community!

We at XPRIZE are wondering what minimally invasive mining technologies exist or are in development? Are they scalable? If you know of any relevant technologies that are pointing us closer to a zero waste industry, we’d love to hear about it! Please post any information on innovations here for discussion.

This is an exciting area of research.
We have done some work looking for hyperaccumulating plant species that could be used for phytomining of rare earth elements:
Our work was not so successful as we found more phytotoxicity effects than hyperaccumulation. But we are currently collaborating with a group who are searching for naturally occurring rare earth element hyperaccumulators.

Thank you Rafael! That’s awesome.

We have posted another new thread, Prize Parameters, that we would love to have your feedback on! Starting to really get into the next Design phase now :smile:

Dear All
Tabas Coal Mines Complex (TCMC), as one of the subsidiaries of the Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization (IMIDRO), established with the objective of providing the required coal for the country and is considered to be of highest priority by the ministry of industry, mine and trade regarding provision of investment, job opportunities technical knowledge and technology transfer and modern industrial and mineral methods.
Absorbing local or foreign investments, improving infrastructures, incorporating maximum capabilities to excavate both thermal and coking coals are the most important objective of the complex.
Tabas thermal and coking coal reserves are over 6 billion tons which is the richest and largest coal field in Iran.
The production of clean coal in the country in 2015 planned to be 1.5 MT (3 MT of raw coal) but it actually reduced to 1.2 MT due to lack of investment to procure equipment, lack of mines development and market recession. The necessity to invest in the coal industry, considering the definite local consumption, is quite obvious.
I’m working in “Tabas Coal Mine Complex (TCMC) in the Parvadeh 4 EPC project”
My research title is “Feasibility study of characterization and removal of sulfur species in coal (organic and inorganic) with regarding to increase in recovery, decreased in ash content of final concentrate with conventional processing methods in Bench, Pilot and Plant Scales for achievement to concentrate with more value with favor quality index in steel industry”.
my Goals and main outcome included in:
By implementing of this study, some main goals presenting in the following items must be reached and some technical and scientific aspects of this project must be clarified.

  • Gathering all information about geology and mineral processing methods conducting in the world which are similar to the Tabas Coal Mines Complex or concentrate or new explored area.
  • Reporting all plants in the world which are able to decrease organic and inorganic sulfur content of coal successfully by different methods in pilot or industrial plant scales.
  • Conducting systematic and organized sampling to gather representative samples from different coal layers or washing plant concentrate.
  • The exploration report and mineralogical studies performed by Kavoshgaran consulting engineers Co. are available. But, any necessary chemical and mineralogical studies can be tested for detail information.
  • Conducting a variety of traditional and new processing methods such chemical and biological processing to decrease organic and inorganic sulfur contents in the laboratory scale with an emphasis on pilot and industrial plant scales.
  • Prefeasibility and feasibility studies on the selected and optimal process/processes.
  • Preparing a complete reports.

I just read an article about rock eating worms [Shipworm that eats rock instead of wood found in river in the Philippines] which made me think about bio-mining where we use (or modify) the naturally evolved process of some biology to extract minerals from rock to avoid blasting, comminution and the creations of tailings waste. I did a search for biomining and see it is already a known and established domain with techniques “to extract metals of economic interest from rock ores or mine waste.” [Biomining - Wikipedia] I then read a blog post about extracting gold from soils that contain it using earthworms [Earthworms and Bio-mining of Gold | Sulekha Creative] and thought with all the genetic ‘tuning’ of microbes to do our engineered bidding, perhaps rock eating worms can be ‘tuned’ to seek out, eat and poop out various minerals we need, without having to blast the rock out of the ground or mountain, and grind all of it up for concentration and collection. This may be a pathway that leads towards to significantly reduced mining waste.

@cedwards Great finds! As we work toward completing our final design report, examples like this are very important.