Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
SYNOPSIS The minerals industry is committed to the principles of sustainability. Reducing water consumption is a priority area, especially for regions of water scarcity. This paper presents a systemic optimization of the water balance of the Skorpion Zinc refinery with the aim of reducing water consumption. An Aspen Plus simulation of the process is used. The validity of the simulation is tested by measuring key output variables and comparing results to plant data. A number of water minimization scenarios are investigated, including unit operation and circuit configuration changes. The scenarios leading to the largest reduction in water consumption are through the full recycle of treated effluent water, which results in water savings of up to 19%. Reducing process water and/or recycling of untreated water is prohibited by the build-up of trace elements, which affect product purity. The Skorpion process already features a highly optimized water balance, with unit operational changes merely resulting in a shift in the water balance. Consequently, the largest area for improvement is through the reuse of effluent water.
Keywords : Skorpion zinc water usage; process optimization; sustainability.