Green Mining | Solutions for Control of Nitrogen Discharges at Mines and Quarries (Miniman)
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Solutions for Control of Nitrogen Discharges at Mines and Quarries (Miniman)

Name:  Solutions for Control of Nitrogen Discharges at Mines and Quarries

Acronym: Miniman

Duration: 1.1.2012 – 30.6.2014

Total costs (€)/Tekes support  919 470 €/550 000 €

Leading research organization partner: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Contact persons:  Ulla-Maija Mroueh, VTT, ulla-maija.mroueh(at); Elina Merta, VTT, Elina.merta(at); Raisa Neitola,GTK,  raisa.neitola(at); Aino-Maija Lakaniemi TUT, aino-maija.lakaniemi(at); Jaakko Puhakka, Jaakko.puhakka(at)

Research organization partners: VTT; Geological Survey of Finland, GTK); Tampere University of Technology, TUT

Company partners: Ekokem-Palvelu Oy, Kemira Oyj, Outotec Finland Oyj, Yara Suomi Oy, Agnico-Eagle Finland Oy, FQM Kevitsa Mining Oy, Outokumpu Chrome Oy, Nordic Mines Oy, Nordkalk Oy Ab, Kiviteollisuusliitto ry / The Finnish Natural Stone Association, BK-Automation Ky, Infra ry

International partners: CSIRO, Australia (Research Exchange to VTT); University of Queensland, Australia (Research Exchange); Luleå University of Technology (collaboration workshops); University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, Italy (Research exchange to TUT); University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy (Research exchange to TUT); Yildiz Technical University, Turkey (Research exchange to TUT); Zijin Mining Group Co., Ltd., China (Doctoral student to TUT)

Number of reviewed publications, incl. submitted manuscripts: 8

Number of other publications and reports: 7

Number of thesis: Doctoral 2, Master 2

Number of invention disclosures: 1

Need and motivation of the project: The spreading of nitrogenous compounds from explosives and N containing process chemicals into water and mineral materials can cause negative environmental effects. Therefore it was essential to find solutions for minimizing of nitrogen transport and cost-effective removal of N-compounds from mine waters.

Main set targets:

  • To improve knowledge on the behaviour and impacts of nitrogen compounds in the mines and quarries and their environments
  • To find measures for minimization of nitrogen transport
  • To investigate cost-effective methods for removal of N-compounds from mine waters, suitable especially for use in cold conditions


Key results

The study provided essential data on N discharges and behaviour in the environments of mines and quarries and developed technologies for treating N containing mine water. The project results can be used by participating companies in planning of the nitrogen management measures, in estimation of the behaviour and impacts of N compounds and in discussion with authorities and other stakeholders.

Based on a water treatment technology review, selective sorption, electrochemically assisted membrane separation and biological treatment were selected to be studied and developed in the project. Denitrification and nitrification studies on synthetic mine wastewater in laboratory scale revealed that denitrification was possible at low pH (2.5) and temperatures as low as 7°C. Nitrification was more pH sensitive. Both processes tolerated metals (Fe, Ni, Co and As).
In the adsorption tests with zeolite, complete ammonium removal from real mine wastewater was achieved with a hydraulic retention time of 2 minutes, with complete regeneration. In addition, a novel electropervaporative technology was developed for recovery of N compounds from waste water as ammonia. Further larger scale testing and development of all technologies is required to ensure their feasibility in a real mining site.

Nitrogen balances were studied at Outokumpu Kemi mine and Varpaisjärvi quarry showing that water pond systems remove N compounds quite effectively, especially in summer. The release of N compounds from waste rock was studied using lysimetres. The explosives originated nitrogen content of left over stones from natural stone quarrying was relatively low and ca. half of the nitrogen was leached within the first weeks after detonation. The total potential nitrogen load to the environment depends on the scale and type of the activity as well as the type of explosives and chemicals used. In addition to factors related to the activity itself, the overall nitrogen management should take into account the background concentrations and sensitivity of the local ecosystem.

Full report: Solutions for control of nitrogen discharges at mines and quarries (pdf)

Commercialization measures and/or potential:

Potential commerzialisation of the electropervaporative technology was discussed and further tested with a participating company. However, it was found, that technology still needs further development before commerzialisation. Technology development is continued in the dissertation work of Johannes Jermakka (Queensland University and TUT).

Zeolite was found to be very potential sorbent for ammonia removal. Further large scale testing is needed to ensure the feasibility in a real mining site.


List of publications

Reviewed articles

Papirio, S., Ylinen, A., Zou, G., Peltola, M., Esposito G. & Puhakka, J.A. 2013. Fluidized-bed denitrification for mine waters. Part I: low pH and temperature operation. Biodegradation. 25:425-435

Zou, G., Papirio, S., Ylinen, A., Di Capua, F., Lakaniemi, A.M. & Puhakka, J.A. 2013. Fluidized-bed denitrification for mine waters. Part II: effects of Ni and Co. Biodegradation 25:417–423

Zou, G., Ylinen A., Di Capua, F., Papirio, S, Lakaniemi A.M., Puhakka, J.A. 2013. Impact of heavy metals on denitrification of simulated mining wastewaters. Advanced Materials Research 825:500-503

Papirio, S., Zou, G., Ylinen, A., Di Capua, F., Pirozzi, F. & Puhakka, J.A. 2014. Effect of arsenic on nitrification of simulated mining water. Bioresource Technology 164:149–154.

Zou, G., Papirio, S., Van Hullebusch, E.D. & Puhakka, J.A. 2015. Fluidized-bed denitrification of mining water tolerates high nickel concentrations. Bioresource Technology 179: 284-290.

Jermakka, J., Wendling, L., Sohlberg, E., Heinonen, H. & Vikman, M. 2014. Potential Technologies for the Removal and Recovery of Nitrogen Compounds from Mine and Quarry Waters, Critical Reviews of Environmental Science and Technology 45(2015)7. doi: 10.1080/10643389.2014.900238

Karlsson, T. & Kauppila, T. 2015. Release of explosives originated nitrogen from the waste rocks of a dimension stone quarry. Proceedings of the 10th ICARD-IMWA annual conference 2015, Santiago, Chile.

Karlsson, T. & Kauppila, T. 2016. Explosives-originated nitrogen emissions from dimension stone quarrying in Varpaisjärvi, Finland. Submitted to the journal of Environmental Earth Sciences.


Other publications

Jermakka, J., Merta, E., Mroueh, U-M., Arkkola, H., Eskonniemi, S., Wendling, L., Laine-Ylijoki, J.,  Sohlberg, E., Heinonen, H., Kaartinen, T., Puhakka, J., Peltola, M., Papirio, S., Lakaniemi, A-M., Zou, G., Ylinen, A., di Capua, F., Neitola, R., Gustafsson, H., Korhonen, T., Karlsson, T., Kauppila, T., Laakso, J. and Mörsky, P., 2015.  Solutions for control of nitrogen discharges at mines and quarries. Miniman project final report. VTT Technology : 225. VTT, Espoo, 110 p. + app. 3 p.

Jermakka, J., Wendling, L., Sohlberg, E., Heinonen, H., Merta, E., Laine-Ylijoki, J., Kaartinen, T. and Mroueh, U-M. 2015. Nitrogen compounds at mines and quarries. Sources, behaviour and removal from mine and quarry waters – Literature study VTT Technology : 226.  VTT, Espoo, 144 p.

Karlsson, T., Neitola, R., Jermakka, J., Merta, E. & Mroueh, U-M. 2015. Behaviour and release of nitrogen at mines and quarries in Nordic conditions. Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 17, EGU2015-15860-3,  EGU General Assembly 2015.

Neitola, R., Korhonen, P., Mörsky, P., Backnäs, S., Turunen, K.; Karlsson, T., Kaartinen, T., Laine-Ylijoki, J., Jermakka, J., Ahoranta, S.,  Papirio, S. & Puhakka, J.A. 2013. Solutions for Control of Arsenic and Nitrogen Discharges in Mining Areas and Processes. FEM, Poster presentation.

Karlsson, T., Kauppila, T., Turunen, K., Forsman, P. & Laakso, J. 2014. Behaviour of explosives-originated nitrogen compounds in left-over stone of a dimension stone quarry. In: Sarala, Pertti (toim.) 11. Geokemian päivät 2014: tiivistelmät (11th Finnish Geochemical Meeting 2014: abstracts), 5.-6.2.2014, GTK, Espoo, Finland. Espoo: Vuorimiesyhdistys, 24-25.

Papirio, S., Zou, G., Puhakka, J.A. 2014. Nitrification of arsenic-containing mining waters. Biohydrometallurgy’14, Falmouth, UK, Conference presentation.

Zou, G., Papirio, S., Puhakka, J.A. 2014. Impact of Ni2+ on denitrification of mining waters in fluidized-bed reactors. Sustainability through Resource Conservation and Recycling ’14 (SRCR’14), Falmouth, UK, Conference presentation.



Zou, G. 2015. Biological Nitrogen Removal from Acidic, Heavy-metal Containing Waters. Doctoral thesis, Tampere University of Technology.

Ylinen, A. 2013. Nitrogen removal from mining wastewaters in bioreactors. Master of Science Thesis, Tampere University of Technology.

Papirio, S. 2012. Fluidized-bed bioreactor applications for the treatment of metal-, sulfate- and nitrate-contaminated mine waters. Thesis for the Ph.D. degree in Civil Engineering, University of Cassino and Southern Lazio.

Di Capua, F. 2013. Nitrogen removal in low pH and heavy metal contaminated mine wastewaters. M.Sc. degree thesis, University of Naples “Federico II”.


Invention disclosures

Jermakka, J. 2013.Combined nitrate and ammonium capture as ammonia gas from water using electrochemical pervaporation.