The province of Huelva is the trial basis of an idea that can put an end to acid waters both natural and as contamination originated by mining activity.

This pioneering project is being developed in the basin of the Odiel river with the support of the LIFE ETAD project, co-financed by the European Union and partners as Sacyr Consrtucción, in the quality of engagement partner, the  Consejería de Medio Ambiente, through Agencia de Medio Ambiente y Agua and the University of Huelva.

In this project, which counts on a 2.650.738 million Euros budget, participate, among others, the researcher of the University of Huelva, José Miguel Nieto, who tries to fight acid waters resorting to scientific methods. In this condition are the main Huelva rivers, Tinto and Odiel, and experts could set in motion a system that allows turning contaminated water into clean water, “in an ecological way and at low cost”.

The project aims at the conception and optimisation of the passive treatment process of acid mine drainage in a standard location in the Iberian Pyrite Belt, as well as the construction and activation of a passive treatment technology installation.

The experts believe that this will contribute to achieve the goals of the National Hydrological Plan of the Tinto, Odiel and Piedras rivers, and likewise purified waters are to be achieved to serve as an irrigation resource for vineyards and citrus production, a feasible alternative in the affected areas.

The promoters of the initiative believe that keeping environment intact, “since there is no resource to electricity neither to reagents” is a positive argument, and the installation itself has been thought in such a way that the water flow from a part of the system to the other by means of gravity, reducing thus cost of consumables to a minimum”.

Experts performed successful lab tests of a system that is based on small grains of of limestone and calcium carbonate to be used as reactive substrate. After achieving the expected lab results is time to go out to the field. Presently, researchers are committed to sizing the equipments that is to be installed by Sacyr in 2015 in the upper part of the Odiel basin.

The results previewed state the capacity of full scale passive technologies as feasible treatment of acid mine drainage, the improvement of the water quality in the area and the resource to technologies that would solve a serious environmental problem that affects degraded water by the mine activity, both in Andalucía and in other locations in Europe, since the Life Etad project aims at presenting itself as a reference pilot project for other areas affected by similar problems in the European continent.

For the time being, tests are being carried out following the mining activity in Andalucía, although the project aims at presenting itself as a reference pilot project for other areas affected by similar problems in the European continent.

The system is so simple that it only consists on rising the water PH levels close to 3 - the level to be found in contaminated rivers – to levels above 6, a level in which the dissolved metals precipitate. For this to happen, reactive filters will be used so the water can flow by means of the gravity effect.


Source: Hablemos de minería

Project goal

Implement an optimized design of a passive treatment system for acid mine drainage process, in a kind of IPF mining location.

Demonstrate by building and launching a full-scale plant of passive treatment technology...(+) 

Project progress

 First works of the experimental treatment plant LIFE ETAD have already executed; they have consisted in transplanting of the protected species plants (Erica andevalensis) present in the plot and that could be affected by the execution of the works.


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