Skip to main content

X-ray Mineral Services Ltd to investigate the application of space In Situ Resource Utilisation techniques to terrestrial mine waste cleanup

NEWS: Collaboration with The Open University, funded by SPRINT

Partners with researchers at The Open University

X-ray Mineral Services Ltd (XMS), a consultancy that serves the resource extraction industry, has collaborated with The Open University on a major SPRINT project that investigated the application of space In Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) techniques to reduce terrestrial mine waste.

The collaboration between XMS and The Open University aimed to identify promising space ISRU technologies that can be adapted and applied in three main areas: environmental remediation, re-mining, and mineral processing. The project aimed to establish any key crossovers between space ISRU technologies and problems surrounding environmental contamination in terrestrial tailings settings.

A team of researchers led by Professor Mahesh Anand at The Open University actively investigated the origin and distribution of lunar volatiles as well as the ISRU potential of the lunar regolith (a superficial layer of unconsolidated, heterogeneous rock and mineral fragments that blankets the top few metres of the lunar surface). XMS drew on the expertise of the OU lunar team for undertaking this novel project.

The project, which included the generation of a technical report examining the applicability of different ISRU techniques to mine waste remediation and the circular economy, was funded from the £7.5 million SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme.

The outcomes from this project include the establishment of further collaboration between the OU and X-ray Mineral Services Ltd on a new project that will experimentally test some ISRU technologies on mine tailings. SPRINT helps businesses such as XMS gain unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities, as well as through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.

Dr Tim Pearce, Chief Executive Officer at X-ray Mineral Services said: “Energy production and security are critical factors in today’s mining environment. It’s vital to extract as much value out of energy to liberate as much material as possible and that’s what this development project was looking to address.

“The Open University is a world-leader in geochemistry and with its expertise in ISRU, along with elite labs and facilities, our collaboration has enabled us to transfer the techniques into the real-world setting of mining. This strengthens the credibility of our position in the marketplace as we further develop the solution.”

Dr Richard Windmill, Post-Doctoral Research Associate at The Open University added: “The principle of using ISRU techniques in space is well-established so the challenge here was to look at applying them into mining and other sectors, specifically at minimising the impact of mining waste.

“Current methods of remediation are often passive whereas this project explored new ways of actively removing problematic mine tailings whilst obtaining usable by-products. By identifying the most promising techniques and continuing this work into the future XMS will be in a position to look at commercial development.”

Keep up to date with the latest SPRINT news and events with our monthly newsletter