With the Germiston-based facility of waste management company Interwaste benchmarked to provide a consistent supply of up to 1 000 tons a month of waste-derived fuel, Interwaste CFO Jason McNeil says there is opportunity to develop such projects and supply alternative fuel to mines.
“The facility produces a lower-carbon fuel source of energy, which can offset a mine’s reliance on coal, and thereby significantly reduce operational risks associated with reliable availability, as well as supply and price fluctuations that take place in global markets.”
The facility produces alternative fuel that is generated from blending suitable hazardous waste, such as hydrocarbon and chemical hazardous waste, which is currently transported to several cement kilns across the country where it is combusted through co-processing. “Making waste-derived fuel a suitable alternative to traditional furnace fuel that can, for instance, be used to power furnaces and/or other heat treatment processing applications.”
McNeil notes that this is a viable option for mines, as one mine alone may not be able to produce sufficient quantities of suitable waste to make a business case for developing a waste-to-energy power project.
“There is perhaps great opportunity for a collective of mines – and possibly other industrial businesses – within a specific geographical area of operation to potentially pool their suitable nonrecyclable or recoverable waste (with the latter recovered using conventional means) to such an end.”
McNeil points out that a collective might be an option, but the business case will still depend on the available volumes of suitable waste to sustain production and power outputs – making this model perhaps more feasible for those mines that are quite remote and/or isolated – or even cross border – and that have little access to waste removal support services.
Moreover, mines that have staff villages may benefit from exploring potential biogas projects from human waste and other biodegradable food wastes, although the viability and tangible benefits will depend on the volume of waste actually generated, and whether a bona fide use for the biogas generated can be identified.
In terms of mining operations, McNeil says potential waste streams would include materials with a calorific value, such as rubber, and nonrecyclable waste with a calorific value such as multilayer plastics and noncontaminated wood chips.
Mining houses are considering options that would reduce costs associated with waste management and want to leverage the waste value and economies of scale presented by the volume of waste produced by their operations – from sourcing material to end-product distribution – states McNeil.
However, one of the main challenges mines face is their being situated in remote locations, which increases costs, owing to the large distances over which the waste has to be transported to be recycled, treated or disposed of.
“To address this, mines will, ideally, benefit from on-site processes to reduce the handling and transportation of their waste materials.”
Interwaste offers mines a fully integrated, tailored waste-management service, from analysing and classifying waste streams, aligning the processing thereof to current and future legislation, designing and implementing solutions that meet the mine’s requirements to providing waste reports and insights to allow for continuous improvement projects.
“These solutions incorporate a key focus on safety, environmental and socioeconomic benefits,” adds McNeil.
To this end, many global mining houseshave set zero-waste-to-landfill goals and are adopting circular economy approaches to their waste management practices to support their sustainable development and compliance requirements.
“Mines have a large impact on the environment, but mining is a significant contributor to our economy from a financial and employment perspective. “Mines will continue to play a critical role in our future and will contribute even more positively to the development of our country by implementing long-term sustainability strategies,” he concludes.