Performance evaluation of reverse osmosis process in the post-treatment of mining wastewaters: Case study of Costerfield mining operations, Victoria, Australia

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Water Process Engineering, 2020, 34
Issue Date:
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© 2019 Elsevier Ltd Reverse Osmosis (RO) membrane has been used for treatment and purification of industrial wastewaters including those from the mining industry before being discharged to receiving body or reuse for applications that are fit for purpose. This study evaluates the performance of Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant as a post-treatment process in mining operations in Victoria, Australia. The data analysis shows that the RO unit significantly improves the quality of the final permeate before discharged to surface waters. Considering average rejection efficiency for the entire evaluated period, turbidity, total dissolved solids (TDS), Antimony, Arsenic, Nickel, Zinc and Iron concentrations are reduced by 85 %, 96 %, 95 %, 66 %, 82 %, 48 % and 10 %, respectively in the RO permeate compared to the feed water. Although the quality of the RO permeate was in a desirable condition in most days of the evaluated years, TDS concentrations on the October 11 and 20,2016 and November 14, 2017 were higher than the limits specified by Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria. Anomalies regarding antimony levels in RO permeate occurred in September and November 2016 as well as August 2017 due to inconsistency in the RO feed quality. This resulted in fouling of RO membranes and contributed to discharge non-compliance with EPA licence conditions on TDS and antimony. Discharge to waterways was suspended over the period when TDS and antimony contents were above the EPA guidelines. Changes in the pre-treatment reduced the turbidity of the feed water and improved the performance of the RO system to comply with the discharge guidelines.
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