BHP, Rio Tinto call for partners in tailings management technology

BHP currently operates Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine. (Image courtesy of BHP | Facebook.)

BHP (NYSE: BHP, ASX: BHP) and Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) are inviting expressions of interest from technology providers, equipment manufacturers, reagent suppliers, startups and research groups across the globe to collaborate on ways to improve tailings dewatering and management performance.

The aim for the global miners is to jointly identify a portfolio of tailings management partners with whom they can work to accelerate the development of technologies that could increase water recovery and reduce potential safety risks and environmental footprints associated with tailings storage facilities.

The search for new partners comes as the two companies have now entered into a new agreement to extend their collaboration beyond the previously announced trial of a large-volume tailings filter unit at a copper mine in Chile.

In October 2022, BHP and Rio formed a partnership to accelerate the development of technology that could significantly increase water recovery from mine tailings, and in turn reduce potential safety risks and environmental footprints associated with tailings storage facilities.

The first project involves a large-volume filter at one of BHP’s copper mines in Chile, with the goal of removing up to 80% of the water in the tailings stream before storage. Rio Tinto has been implementing smaller-scale tailings filters on bauxite residues at alumina refineries since 2005.

“There are so many innovative thinkers out there and we want to bring them in as partners to help us improve in this critical area for safety and sustainability of our operations,” BHP’s head of sustainability innovation Ingrid Oyarzun said in a news release.

Rio Tinto’s chief advisor of research and development Saskia Duyvesteyn added: “We want to tap into the wealth of great ideas and innovations we know are out there and work together to find ways to improve safety and reduce the environmental footprint of tailings facilities.”

Tailings management includes tailings dewatering and transport technologies, chemical amendment, and dust mitigation. Ideas and technologies considered may be market ready for mining, involve technologies previously applied in other industries, or may be original ideas at earliest stages of research and development, the companies said.

Expressions of interest can be submitted here.