Thor mining is working to adapt an innovative, low impact mining technique to its copper projects ing South Australia. A move that could see Australia become a world-leader in sustainable mining practices.
The process is called in-situ recovery or I.S.R. Unlike traditional mining practices which rely on excavation and blasting to recover the ore – I S R has such a minimal impact on the surrounding environment that it can even take place alongside farms and communities.
In fact it is sometimes called the invisible mine.
This is how it works.
The process is relatively simple.
Once an ore-body has been identified and proven to have the right geology, a series of wells are drilled.
The key ones are the injection wells. They pump a specially formulated solution directly into the targeted rock.
In the past these solutions were a weak acidic liquid, but thanks to the pioneering work of the CSIRO and Curtin university, we now have new options that are 100% non-toxic and biodegradable options, known as lixiviants.
The solution slowly permeates the targeted layer – rinsing the copper out of the rock. It’s a similar process to what happens when you make a cup of tea.
Surrounded the entire area, are a number of monitoring wells. These wells collect ground water measurements and other data to make sure that nothing escapes the area being ‘mined’ and further minimises the risks to the surrounding environment.