Removal of sulphates from South African mine water using coal fly ash
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South African power stations generate large amounts of highly alkaline fly ash (FA). This waste product has a serious impact on the environment. Acid mine drainage (AMD) is another environmental problem associated with mining. AMD has high heavy metal content in addition to high SO/- concentrations. Several studies have shown that 80-90 % of SO/- can be removed when FA is codisposed with AMD rich in Fe and AI. In South Africa, many sources of contaminated mine waters have circumneutral pH and much lower concentrations of Fe and Al (unlike AMD), but are rich in Ca, Mg and SO2-4. This study evaluated sol removal from circumneutral mme water (CMW) collected from Middleburg coal mine using coal FA collected from Hendrina power station. The following parameters were investigated: the effect of the amount of FA, the effect of the final pH achieved during treatment, the effect of the initial pH of the mine water and the effect of Fe and Al on SO/- removal from mine water. The precipitation of ettringite at alkaline pH was evaluated to further reduce the SO/- concentration to below the DWAF limit for potable water. Removal of sol from mine water was found to be dependent on: the final pH achieved during treatment, the amount of FA used to treat the mine water and the presence of Fe and Al in the mine water. Treatment of CMW using different CMW:FA ratios; 5:1, 4:1, 3:1, and 2:1 resulted in 55, 60, 70 and 71 % SO/- removal respectively. Treatment of CMW to pH 8.98, 9.88, 10.21, 10.96, 11.77 and 12.35 resulted in 6, 19, 37, 45, 63 and 71 % SO/- removal respectively. When the CMW was modified by adding Fe and Al by mixing with Navigation coal mine AMD and treated to pH 10, 93 % SO/- removal was observed. Further studies were done to evaluate the effects of Fe and Al separately. Treatment of simulated Fe containing AMD (Fe-AMD) to pH 9.54, 10.2, 11.8, and 12.1 resulted in 47, 52,65, and 68 % SO/- removal respectively. When Al containing AMD was treated to pH 9.46, 10.3, 11.5 and 12 percentage SO/- removal of 39, 51,55 and 67 % was observed respectively. Ion chromatography (IC), inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICPMS) and inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission (ICP-AES) analysis of the product water, x-ray diffraction (XRD) and x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry analysis of FA and solid residues collected after treatment of mine water complemented with PHREEQC thermodynamic modelling have shown that the mechanism of S042 - removal from mine water depends on the composition of the mine water. The sol- removal mechanism from CMW was observed to depend on gypsum precipitation. On the other hand sol- removal from mine water containing Fe and Al was dependent on the precipitation of gypsum and Fe and Al oxyhydroxysulphates. The oxyhydroxysulphates predicted by PHREEQC as likely to precipitate were alunite, basaluminite, ettringite, jarosites and jurbanite. Treatment of CMW with FA to pH 12.35 removed sol- from 4655 ppm to approximately 1500 ppm. Addition of amorphous AI(OH)3 to CMW that was treated to pH greater than 12 with FA was found to further reduce the sol concentration to 500 ppm which was slightly above the threshold for potable water of 400 ppm. The further decrease of sol concentration from 1500 to 500 ppm was due to ettringite precipitation. Mine water treatment using FA was found to successfully remove all the major elements such as Fe, AI, Mn and Mg to below the DWAF limit for drinking water. The removal of the major elements was found to be pH dependent. Fe and Al were removed at pH 4-7, while Mn and Mg were removed at pH 9 and 11 respectively. The process water from FA treatment followed by gypsum seeding and addition of AI(OH)3 had high concentration of Ca, Cr, Mo and B and a pH of greater than 12. The pH of the process water from FA treatment followed by gypsum seeding and addition of AI(OH)3 was reduced by reacting the process water with CO2 to 7.06. The process water from the carbonation process contained trace elements such as Cr, Mo and B above the DWAF effluent limit for domestic use. Carbonation of the process water reduced the water hardness from 5553 ppm to 317 ppm due to CaC03 precipitation, thereby reducing the Ca concentration from 2224 ppm to 126 ppm.