Did you know that, if our current patterns of consumption and production continue, we will be overusing the world’s resources by 400% by 2050? To ensure a bright future for all, we must begin adjusting our collective relationship to material resources.

As an industry that produces many of our primary materials, mining can play an important role in these efforts. Indeed, the industry is already taking steps to be more sustainable by reducing emissions of CO2 and pollutants and improving resource use and waste handling. Moreover, mining will also be essential for the transition to a low-carbon, circular economy. Innovations such as electric cars and digitalization require copper, nickel, and rare-earth metals – all of which must be extracted by mining.

Materials analysis: The core ingredient

Advanced technologies play an important role in supporting the mining industry’s sustainable transition. In particular, by enabling analysis of the mineralogy, chemistry, particle size and shape, and zeta potential of ores, material analysis solutions can help make mining operations more energy-efficient, less polluting, and less wasteful.

For example, miners can use these tools to check for impurities, enabling minimized reagent and energy use in downstream processing, and the extraction of only ores with maximum value. Toxic elements in tailings, waste rock, soil, plants, and wastewater can be monitored in real-time, ensuring that no hazardous materials reach the environment. And mine rejects can be analyzed to support their reuse, recycling, and recovery – enabling the transition to a circular economy.

Smart solutions from Malvern Panalytical

At Malvern Panalytical, we offer several analytical solutions to help the mining industry go one step further. For instance, X-ray fluorescence (XRF) solutions such as our Epsilon 4 mining & minerals edition can be used to ensure that waste composition is within environmental limits, as well as to rapidly check for toxic elements and impurities.

At the same time, along with XRF, X-ray diffraction (XRD) solutions such as the Aeris Minerals edition can help optimize parameters and conditions in smelters, enabling lower temperatures and reduced energy consumption. And, by reducing the need for hazardous wet-chemical testing, XRD also enables safer, more environmentally friendly sample handling, e.g., during the production of aluminum.

What’s more, our CNA3 cross-belt analyzer enables more efficient coal mining operations, based on its insights into elemental composition, impurities, ash and moisture content, and calorific value. This can increase combustion efficiency by around 0.4%, reducing CO2 and particulate emissions. Our CNA analyzers can also monitor smelter input and output for optimal raw material usage when mining base metals, such as copper, nickel, zinc, and lead ores, or bauxite and iron ores. By enabling maximum value extraction from these ores, this instrument supports the development of sustainable innovations enabled by these metals.

And that’s not all. We offer even more analytical instruments for the mining industry – for materials from aluminum to precious metals. And, of course, these solutions can also facilitate mining-related research on additional sustainable technologies – so we can learn from our past consumption and get ready for a circular future.

Further reading