Lignite Derived Humic Substances for Treatment of Acid Mine Drainage
Thesis DisciplineCivil Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Engineering
Addition of alkalinity to acid mine drainage (AMD) results in the neutralisation of acidity and precipitation of dissolved metals as insoluble hydroxides. Two aspects of the current AMD treatment practice at the Stockton Mine could be enhanced. Firstly, residual water quality may be poor due to unreacted alkalinity reagents, particularly CaCO3, resulting in poor water clarity and elevated suspended solids (SS). Secondly, neutralisation to circum-neutral pH may not avoid the discharge of residual metals (Ni and Zn) due to incomplete adsorption and hydroxide precipitation. The aim of this project was to enhance the conventional neutralisation of AMD through addition of humic substances (HS) to reduce residual SS and trace metal concentrations. Humic substances are organically derived and have a high molecular weight. Functional groups on the surface of HS are capable of binding dissolved metals, forming HS-metal complexes. Incorporation of HS complexed metals into settling floc could result in increased metal removal from the dissolved phase. Modified jar testing was used to investigate the effects of HS addition before, after and during (pH 4.5) neutralisation of AMD in two treatment scenarios at the Stockton Mine; the Blackwater Treatment Plant (BTP) using NaOH and Ca(OH)2 and the Mangatini Stream-sump System (MSS) using CaCO3. Supernatant samples collected during the sedimentation period were analysed for basic water quality parameters (turbidity and suspended solids) and dissolved (< 0.45 µm) metal concentrations. The addition of HS to the BTP process before (pH 2.8) and during (pH 4.5) neutralisation resulted in HS precipitation. Precipitated HS subsequently acted as a nucleation site, triggering flocculation of precipitating metal hydroxides, resulting in low turbidity and suspended solids (SS) of less than 2 NTU and 5 mg/L, respectively. The addition of HS after neutralisation (pH 7) did not result in HS precipitation. Intermolecular bridging of HS by the divalent Ca resulted in incorporation of HS into floc when neutralised by Ca(OH)2, resulting in low turbidity and SS. However, in NaOH neutralised conditions, the monovalent Na was unable to bridge HS molecules, resulting in HS remaining dissolved and contributing to elevated turbidity and SS of up to 24.4 NTU and 18.4, respectively. The neutralisation efficiency of CaCO3 is relatively low, thus approximately 1000 mg/L CaCO3 remained unreacted in MSS scenarios, resulting in elevated turbidity and SS. When added after neutralisation, dissolved Solid Energy Humic Acid (SEHA) facilitated flocculation of residual CaCO3 SS, resulting in an up to 75% lower suspended solids than CaCO3 neutralisation alone conditions. Although the results are good, the efficiency of SEHA as a polymer compared unfavorably in a cost: benefit analysis to two commercially available polymers for the removal of residual CaCO3. Neutralisation of AMD in control samples resulted in decreased concentrations of the target metal group (Ni, Zn, Cu, Cd, and Pb) by hydroxide precipitation, co-precipitation, and adsorption. Equilibrium speciation modeling showed that the HS-metal binding affinity controlled the effectiveness of HS addition for metal removal. The low HS complexation affinity of Ni and Zn resulted in no additional metal removal by HS dosing. The removal of Cu was enhanced by over 50% for SEHA 20 during-neutralisation conditions neutralised by both NaOH and Ca(OH)2. Up to 80% lower Cd concentrations were observed for all HS dose conditions when neutralised by Ca(OH)2. Data for CaCO3 HS dosed metal removal was statistically indeterminate. The high detection limit for Pb made any HS dosed removal enhancement difficult to identify, which was unfortunate as Pb has a high HS complexation affinity (Čežı́ková, Kozler et al. 2001; Milne, Kinniburgh et al. 2003). A simple cost: benefit analysis showed that the additional removal of metals by HS dosing was less efficient than conventional neutralisation alone, on a cost basis. Overall, incorporation of HS into AMD treatment results in improved water quality for CaCO3 neutralisation and lower concentrations of metals with a high HS binding affinity, for some conditions. However, further investigation is required to improve the feasibility of HS incorporation into the AMD neutralisation process.