This is part 2 of my interview with Impossible Mining CEO Oliver Gunasekara. In part 1, we talked about reinventing the mining industry, how the 2020 wildfire season inspired Oliver to start his company, and the three fundamental problems he is tackling with Impossible Mining. If you haven't read part 1, you can go back and do so here.
In part 2, Oliver and I discuss:
- Solving The Issue With Mine Tailings
- Technologies Being Used By Impossible Mining
- Impossible Mining's AI & AUV Approach
- Concluding Thoughts
Solving The Issue With Mine Tailings
Tailings dams are not good for the environment and provide only a temporary solution for the acid used in the industry. In part 1, Oliver mentioned a tailings disaster in Brazil. For those unfamiliar, the Brumadinho dam disaster happened in 2019. Owned by Vale, which was also involved in the Mariana dam disaster in 2015, the dam released a mudflow that ended up killing 270 people, with 11 others going missing — their bodies have still not been found. The mudflow advanced through the mine's offices during lunch, and also over houses, farms, and inns.
With this in mind, I asked Oliver if there was a way to safely reuse or dissolve the deadly acid that is often stored in these dams. Oliver spoke of the challenges of trying to neutralize mine tailings.
"It's challenging because it's very toxic. You can use large amounts of acid or sulfuric acid which is very corrosive. How do you deal with this large amount of acid material? There's isn't a very good solution today apart from damming it and trying to make sure the dam doesn't fail.
"There's also the tailings which are materials that they haven't been able to extract value out of. There are companies including ours which are looking at new refining technologies that may be able to go to tailings that what were 10 or 20 years ago there was no economic way to recover the metals in those tailings but now there is.
"At Impossible Mining, that's something we're also researching both the collection of the material — the mining, and the extraction of the refining which is getting the metal out the ore once you have it."
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