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New Know-How, Methods and Efficiency in the area of Mine Water Treatment

Professor Christian Wolkersdorfer specializing in mine water treatment will put his expertise at the service of Finland. He will be appointed a professor of mine water treatment of Green Chemistry Laboratory in Mikkeli at Lappeenranta University of Technology, LUT. Wolkersdorfer is a professor of mine water treatment in Pretoria, South Africa, and he will work half of the time in Mikkeli and the other half in South Africa.

Professor of Green Chemistry Mika Sillanpää, Head of Department of Chemistry at LUT, says that currently process and waste water in the mining industry is treated by splitting the treated material into two parts: one can be released into the environment as such while the other must be treated. The iMineWa project (Intelligent Minewater Management) headed by Professor Sillanpää aims at a different way of thinking. "We aspire to enhance the mine water management on site and put the separated components into efficient re-use. In the mines waste water is treated at an early stage and, for example, any geothermal heat carried by such water is put to use in heating or mine water treatment processes."

Sillanpää emphasizes that more efficient sensors, tracer techniques, and expert networks help to improve the management of the water flows of the mines. "Semi-metals and/or anions, in particular, are separated from the mine water by sophisticated methods and used, for instance, in the manufacture of fertilizers. Along with biological and nanotechnological methods the used separation techniques include adsorption and electrochemical techniques. Tests are first carried out on a laboratory scale and, at a later stage, on a pilot scale in order to verify the suitability of such technologies in the actual mines."

For his iMineWa project Sillanpää received a funding of EUR 2.5 million from the FiDiPro – Finland Distinguished Professor Programme Funding Scheme managed jointly by the Academy of Finland and Tekes, the National Technology Agency. Beginning in early 2014 the iMineWa project will run for five years. The funding will also be used for a number of post-graduate students' dissertations. Tekes hopes the project will provide a national umbrella for other mining water treatment projects. The number of companies joining the project is more than 20.

The professorship of Christian Wolkersdorfer is the first FiDiPro professorship at LUT. The FiDiPro funding programme provides Finnish universities and research institutes with an opportunity to employ foreign or expatriate Finnish researchers to Finland for a fixed period. FiDiPro professors will be working in universities and research institutes across Finland.

The Mikkeli environmental chemistry laboratory of LUT headed by Professor Mika Sillanpää carries out research related to water consumption and potable water, which is even more topical with crises involving water becoming more common. The research at the laboratory is aimed at reducing water consumption, producing clean drinking water and treating waste-water to avoid polluting water bodies. The defining theme of this study is the utilization of micro and nanotechnology-based materials to develop new water and soil cleanup technologies.