Removal of toxic metals and recovery of acid from acid mine drainage using acid retardation and adsorption processes

Nleya, Yvonne
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The remediation of acid mine drainage (AMD) has received much attention over the years due to the environmental challenges associated with its toxic constituents. Although, the current methods are able to remediate AMD, they also result in the loss of valuable products which could be recovered and the financial benefits used to offset the treatment costs. Therefore, this research focused on the removal of toxic heavy metals as well as the recovery of acid using a low cost adsorbent and acid retardation process, respectively. In the first aspect of the study, three low cost adsorbents namely zeolite, bentonite clay and cassava peel biomass were evaluated for metal uptake. The adsorption efficiencies of zeolite and bentonite, was found to be less than 50% for most metal ions, which was lower compared to the 90% efficiency obtained with cassava peel biomass. Subsequently, cassava peel biomass was chosen for further tests. The metal removal efficiency using the cassava biomass was in the order Co2+> Ni2+> Ca2+> Mn2+> Fe3+> Mg2+. The highest metal removal was attained at 2% adsorbent loading and 30 ˚C solution temperature. Amongst the equilibrium models tested, the experimental data was found to fit well with the Langmuir isotherm model. Column studies using the immobilized cassava waste biomass suggested that the breakthrough curves of most metal ions did not resemble the ideal breakthrough curve, due to the competitive nature of the ions present in the AMD used in this study. However, the experimental data from the column tests was found to correlate well with the Adam-Bohart model. Sulphuric acid recovery from the metal barren solution was evaluated using Dowex MSA-1 ion exchange resins. The results showed that sulphuric acid can be recovered by the resins via the acid retardation process, and could subsequently be upgraded to near market values of up to 70% sulphuric acid using an evaporator. Water of re-usable quality could also be obtained in the acid upgrade process. An economic evaluation of the proposed process also showed that it is possible to obtain revenue from sulphuric acid which could be used to offset some of the operational costs.
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Engineering. Johannesburg, 2016
Nleya, Yvonne (2016) Removal of toxic metals and recovery of acid from acid mine drainage using acid retardation and adsorption processes University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <>