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    Russian Waste Dumps as a Valuable Source of Gold and Rare Earth Metals: New Innovative Solutions


    The economic potential of tailing dumps in Russia is immense. Some experts say there might be up to five thousand tons of pure gold buried inside those dumps. The world’s brightest scientists have been working on finding solutions that could improve profitability of tailing dumps development. Working in this direction has also become one of the priorities for the International Competence Centre for Mining-Engineering Education under the auspices of UNESCO. The Competence Centre based in St. Petersburg is involved, for example, in research focused on increasing efficiency of precious metal and strategic mineral extraction from technogenic deposits.

    Tatiana Alexandrova, Head of the Department of Mineral Processing at St. Petersburg Mining University, an expert of the UNESCO Centre: ”Electromagnetic and microwave methods of processing industrial waste discharges allow for extracting up to 86-90% of the valuable component, provided its content in the ore is about one gram per ton. I am talking here about gold and platinum group metals, palladium included. Most importantly, one semi-industrial processing cycle lasts 6-8 hours, while heap leaching requires 2-3 months at least.”

    Another innovative solution delivered by the Mining University’s researchers is connected with prospects for exploitation of non-commercial apatite-nepheline ore deposits, usually limited in volumes of the valuable component. This research is of particular importance as it also gives an opportunity to simultaneously extract rare earth metals, needed for manufacturing missile parts, airplanes, and other high – tech products.

    Nadezhda Nikolaeva, Senior Lecturer of the Department of Mineral Processing: “The core of our development lies in the new combination of flotation agents, that are used in particular for grinding. The new alteration allows to start using lower-graded ores in manufacturing – ores with a valuable component of 5 to 8%; whereas now the value equal to 18% is considered profitable. Extraction of rare earth metals occurs at an intermediate stage prior to flotation, during mechanochemical activation.”

    Both projects were officially presented in Helsinki at the forum dedicated to refining waste conversion techniques and improving profitability of technogenic and low-grade ore deposits development. The Expert Forum was organised in November by Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT University), the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, and the International Competence Centre for Mining-Engineering Education under the auspices of UNESCO.

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