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Sustainable mining of raw materials from thermal springs

By Gerald Ondrey |

According to statistics from the World Bank, thousands of tons of valuable minerals are imported to Germany from Chile every year, including raw materials for lithium-ion batteries. But their extraction causes ecological and social problems. “The use of the limited freshwater resources in northern Chile for mining regularly fuels conflicts with the local population,” says professor Thomas Kohl from the Institute of Applied Geosciences (AGW) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT; Germany; www.kit.edu). “Northern Chile is one of the driest regions on earth, but has extensive geothermal resources,” he says. “With a novel type of plant, it is not only possible to generate electricity in a climate-friendly way, but also to extract drinking water and even mineral resources at the same time.” As part of BrineMine — a German-Chilean research project that began in 2019 with €1.5 million in funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research — the AGW team is developing the necessary strategies and technologies for extracting mineral resources, as well as drinking water, directly in geothermal power plants. One partner is the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE; Freiburg, Germany; www.ise.fraunhofer.de);…
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