This project, led by researchers from the universities of Pretoria, Southampton and Cape Town, began in February 2019 with the aim to catalogue mine tailings suitable for potential CO2 sequestration schemes across South Africa.
Weathering of rocks at the Earth’s surface is a natural process that converts atmospheric CO2 into carbonate minerals or alkalinity, occurring over a geological timescale. Speeding up this process through geoengineered methods represents a meaningful approach to CO2 removal on human timescales.
Due to their favourable physical and chemical properties and worldwide abundance, mafic and ultramafic mine wastes are highly reactive with atmospheric CO2 and, therefore, subject to much study and assessment. The high metal and precious stone mining activities and tailings production in South Africa make this an ideal country to spearhead geoengineered processes to capture CO2 at mine sites. This proposed research aims to identify and catalogue the potential of mine tailings for CO2 sequestration in the South African mining sector.
Data compilation includes the reported and calculated volumes of targeted tailing deposits for suitable (mafic and ultramafic-hosting) mine sites and production systems and the calculated volume of CO2 that could be captured for sites, regions and the country as a whole.
The database, GIS resources and evaluations published from this study is intended to be used by scientific researchers and industrial projects to identify favourable sites for maximum sequestration potential. This may also lead to pilot studies or implementation of large-scale CO2 sequestration projects at South African mine sites. The project will aid current and future decision-making and policy development regarding tailing treatment and the carbon footprint of the mining industry of South Africa.
The utilisation of tailings extends far beyond carbon storage and may include other circular economy use cases. Volarasation, artificial soil engineering, and materials production are many other themes that may be pursued using the vast volumes and tonnages of rock materials produced by over two decades of industrial-scale mining in this country and beyond.
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