Managing mine wastes

The UK-based environmental business of AMEC, the international project management and services company, has formed a joint venture with the Royal Holloway University of London to launch a new commercial mining laboratory which will provide specialist testing services to characterize mining wastes. The Royal Holloway is already one of the UK’s leading centres of excellence for research and teaching in geology, to which AMEC will add its support and expertise in geological exploration, resource estimation, feasibility assessment, design and operation through to environmental services and reclamation.

To help secure new commercial business for the new London laboratory, AMEC will use its industry contacts and existing project portfolio. The first contracts involve investigations in the Balkans and Turkey. Miguel Diaz, Associate Director of AMEC Earth & Environmental’s UK mining business,  says the laboratory will take samples for testing from any project, wherever it may be, and that its capacity would grow as its workload increases. It is likely that the bulk of the initial work will come from existing AMEC mining activity but this should change as the facility becomes more established and takes in work from third parties.

Predicting the impacts that mining wastes can cause – potentially involving the release of acids and heavy metals – helps the industry understand the potential consequences for the environment and allows the development of mitigation measures. The laboratory will also characterize waste from existing mining operations to enhance performance and assist with clean-up operations.

Diaz explains:  “This is an excellent new facility that will provide high quality materials testing in London. It also means our mining services business can provide a fully integrated service to its clients and be fully confident in the quality of test data material. It removes the need to send samples to remote specialist facilities and our interpretive scientists will now have full control and understanding of the test-work and thereby greatly improve the quality of service we provide.”

Both AMEC and the University are also keen to produce and publish new research in aspects of mining waste management and will focus on this specialist area to support geochemistry masters degree students with their final year theses.