Challenges and avenues for acid mine drainage treatment, beneficiation, and valorisation in circular economy: A review

V. Masindi, S. Foteinis, P. Renforth, J. Ndiritu, J. P. Maree, M. Tekere, E. Chatzisymeon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)
286 Downloads (Pure)


Mining activities are notorious for their environmental impact, with acid mine drainage (AMD) being among the most significant issues. Specifically, AMD has recently been a topical issue of prime concern, primarily due to the magnitude of its environmental, ecotoxicological, and socioeconomic impacts. AMD originates from both active and abandoned mines (primarily gold and coal) and is encountered in Canada, China, Russia, South Africa, USA, and other countries with strong mining industry. Owing to its acidity, AMD contains elevated levels of dissolved (toxic) metals, metalloids, rare-earth elements, radionuclides, and sulfates. Practical and cost-effective solutions to prevent its formation are still pending, while for its treatment active (driven by frequent input of chemicals and energy) or passive (based on oxidation/reduction) technologies are typically employed with the first being more efficient in contaminants removal, however, at the expense of process complexity, cost, and materials and energy consumption. More recently, and under the circular economy concept, hybrid (combination of active and passive technologies) and particularly integrated (sequential or stepwise treatment) systems have been explored for AMD beneficiation and valorisation. These systems are costly to install and operate but are cleaner production systems since they can effectively prevent pollution and can be used for closed-loop and sustainable AMD management (e.g., zero liquid discharge (ZLD) systems). Herein, the body of knowledge on AMD treatment, beneficiation (metals/minerals recovery), valorisation (water reclamation), and life cycle assessment (LCA) is comprehensively reviewed and discussed, with focus placed on circular economy. Future research directions to introduce reuse, recycle, and resource recovery paradigms in wastewater treatment and to inspire innovation in valorising this toxic and hazardous effluent are also provided. Overall, AMD beneficiation and valorisation appears promising since the reclaimed water and the recovered minerals/metals could offset treatment costs and environmental impacts. However, the main challenges include high-cost, complexity, co-contamination in the recovered minerals, and the generation of a higly heterogeneous and mineralised sludge.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106740
JournalEcological Engineering
Early online date11 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Acid rock drainage (ARD) or acid and metalliferous drainage
  • drinking water reclamation
  • minerals and resource recovery
  • water scarcity
  • water/wastewater contamination and pollution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Environmental Engineering


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