PHASE I Projects, 2019-2020

#1 - Prototype to Neutralize Cyanide Ions in Effluent from Gold Mining

This project is a critical review and evaluation of ultraviolet oxidation process alternatives for cyanide destruction with the goal of developing a prototype solar powered mobile treatment system. Currently, much gold extraction in the region uses mercury, a dangerous and environmentally damaging substance. Cyanide is a potential alternative for extraction, but it must be contained and managed, and a portable, destructive treatment system could eventually lead to dramatically improved worker safety and environmental protection. Specific project tasks include:

  • Review of the cyanide oxidation literature
  • Identify required operation conditions and develop performance criteria
  • Bench-scale optimization on synthetic cyanide solutions at Mines and UNSA laboratories
  • Design and construction of mobile prototype
  • Testing of mobile prototype on real gold mining effluents
#2 - Impact program: Majes and San Camilo, Peru Arequipa region

The Majes and Sam Camilo areas present a dynamic research area where irrigation, water quality, and slope stability and erosion issues are complexly intertwined. The project goals are to understand these linkages and provide tools to better manage the resulting problems in the area:

  • Characterize the hydrology, hydrogeology, and water quality of Majes and San Camilo with a focus on systems related to seeps and irrigation return flow.
  • Select and design an appropriate pilot scale water treatment system based on water quality in the study areas and discussions with UNSA faculty regarding desired uses.
  • Geological and geophysical investigations to understand the geology and groundwater in Majes and San Camilo.
  • Analysis, sensitivity, and monitoring of landslides in Majes and San Camilo.
  • Development and implementation of a low-cost photogrammetric system for 3-D deformation monitoring
#3 - Sustainable mining through transformation of mining liabilities into benefits in Arequipa Region, Peru

Mine tailings volumes are rapidly increasing as extraction processes allow economic production of increasingly low ore grades. While the current approaches focus on storage of tailings, alternative uses can be a great benefit to both the mining industries and the communities surrounding the mines. This project provides an initial assessment of the reuse of mine tailings for new sustainable construction materials and as a source of new mineral value. Specific tasks include:

  • Characterize mine tailings and develop a database of key properties and features
  • Evaluate options for mine tailings reuse and identify applicable practices
  • Evaluate feasibility based on the properties of mine tailings and newly produced materials
#4 - Sustainable treatment technologies for the removal of metal(loid)s from impaired waters in the Arequipa region of Peru

Mining activities can impact water quality through the mobilization of metals and metalloid compounds, potentially resulting in strong environmental impacts. This project is intended to research potential technologies for treating impacts water through the following tasks:

  • Geochemically-informed methods and analyses to better understand treatment potential and immobilization mechanisms
  • Test metal and metalloid immobilization from water using engineered, passive treatment wetlands
  • Test metal and metalloid removal efficiency of field-deployable actively managed membrane-based technologies
  • Identify mechanisms, barriers and incentives for adoption by stakeholders (i.e. ASM communities, nonprofits, university or government entities).
#5 - Expert advice and consulting on the design of UNSA’s proposed new Research Center for Sustainable Mining

UNSA intends to develop a new State-of-the-Art research Center to house facilities for advanced research and education in a) enhanced exploration, sensing, and treatment techniques for mining, b) new technologies and processes to improve mine safety and productivity of formal and informal mining operations, c) provide a comprehensive data resource for making data from research projects accessible (e.g., on-line) to researchers, and to students and teachers across Peru for educational purposes, d) collaborate with people involved in informal and formal mining operations in Peru to participate in research and educational activities, and e) instill a culture of innovation in the mining industry that will attract the workforce of the future. Specific advising and consulting tasks include:

  • To define indoor laboratory requirements (space/utilities/equipment) with the design integrated to serve the needs of all UNSA-Mines research projects, and complete the preliminary design for the installation
  • To define outdoor laboratory needs (space/utilities/equipment)
  • To define the technology resources necessary for the planned research projects, including IT needs for software and hardware
#6 - Risk Assessment and Management for Geohazards near Formal and Informal Mining Operations in the Arequipa Region, Peru

Mining operations are often affected by geohazards such as landslides, debris flows, rockfall, or accelerated erosion. In some cases, the operations accelerate these processes or initiate them. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing tools such as satellite data can be used to both map these hazards and to identify areas with higher risk. In this project, we will use these tools to develop mapping procedures and risk assessment and management that can be calibrated at our project locations and then used in a more automated fashion at other locations. Tasks include:

  • GIS and remote-sensing based susceptibility, hazard and risk zonation for anticipated mass wasting types (landslides, debris flows, rockfall, etc.) for several identified formal and informal sites.
  • Identification of data sources and construction of a geospatial infrastructure
  • Field analysis for distinguishing landslide controlling factors and hillside responses between formal and informal mining.
  • Analysis of triggers from natural (rainfall, erosion, earthquake, etc.) and human activity (irrigation, infrastructure construction, land-use land-cover changes, etc.) for effective mitigation of risks.
  • Analysis of communities’ perceptions of risk.
  • Identification of effective planning and mitigation practices, matching these practices to a range of likely (and observed) scenarios for both formal and informal mining, development of strategies to encourage adoption and implementation, and integration of community perceptions and sensitivities to hazards and the need for risk.
#7 - Predictive Geology and Geometallurgy at Small-Scale Mine Sites in the Department of Arequipa, Peru

This project will provide a comprehensive assessment of the geology and geometallurgy of small-scale mine sites in Arequipa, which can be used to develop a predictive framework for mineral exploration, mining techniques, mineral processing and environmental reclamation. Tasks include:

  1. Characterization of site mineralogy and geochemistry, using an integration of field mapping, field- and regional-scale hyperspectral imaging, and in-field or lab-based X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and X-ray diffraction (XRD), as well as automated mineralogy.
  2. Characterization of geometallurgy of the ores, using data from Objectives 1-2, as well as field mapping, sampling, and mineralogical and metallurgical field and laboratory methods.
  3. Development of models that predict metallogeny, geometallurgy, geo-environmental
#8 - Geomechanical evaluation of groundfall hazards for small-scale underground mines in the Arequipa region of Peru.

Small-scale mines face different challenges than larger underground mines, both because of the relative lack of physical, financial, and knowledge-based resources available to local miners and the unique geotechnical conditions that exist. For example, existing systems for relative hazard classification (rockmass classification) may not be applicable. This project will develop data collection protocols to develop rockmass classification databases as well as hazard identification guidelines for small-scale miners based on in-situ data collection and numerical sensitivity analyses. Specifically, we will:

  1. Provide rock mechanics / ground control training to interested UNSA personnel; integrate UNSA scientists into project research
  2. Compile, collect, and analyze data on rockmass behavior and groundfall hazards in small-scale mines
  3. Develop numerical models to assess critical factors controlling small-scale mine stability; associated development of groundfall hazard identification guidelines for small-scale miners
#9 - Mine ventilation - Studies and Environmental Interventions for Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) in the Arequipa, Peru Region

In Artisinal and Small-Scale Mining there is no infrastructure dedicated to health and safety of miners. Unsafe and unhealthy mining practices are unsustainable and damaging not only to the affected miners and their families, but also to the economy. This project will design and implement interventions to improve mine ventilation and environmental conditions to control gas, heat and dust for underground ASM to significantly improve the health and safety of miners. Project tasks include:

  1. Assess the needs of ASM to improve ventilation and dust control in collaboration with local groups
  2. Build a database of ventilation conditions, environment, safety and health of ASM
  3. Identify the appropriate technology to control ventilation, control of heat and dust
  4. With local support, develop interventions and safety training for miners to selected mines
  5. Review and monitor progress through the local leadership and a cycle of continuous improvement

PHASE II Projects, 2021-2023

#2.1 Technologies for the Decontamination of Cyanide of the Effluents of Small Mining Operations

Cyanide removal typically focuses on destruction but there is also potential for recovery. In this project we work on the co-development, testing, and economic cost comparison of multiple cyanide and process water treatment and recovery systems. The following tasks are proposed: (1) Optimize the resiliency and robustness of the UV-oxidation process, anaerobic biofilters and electrochemical treatment under different water quality scenarios. (2) Test the recoverability of cyanide and ammonia using membrane distillation; (3) Conduct economic analysis of systems; (4) Publish research findings in high impact and quality journals.

#2.2 Geophysical Imaging at Majes I and Majes II for Geology, Water, Cemented Subsoils, and Landslide Risk

We will leverage the knowledge gained from Phase I and expand upon initial successful geophysical investigations at Majes I to better understand the broader 3D distribution of geology and sub-surface water movement as they relate to landslide hazards. We will additionally perform a focused, near-surface geophysical survey over a test-bed at Majes II to understand the general distribution and properties of the shallow cemented subsoils (caliche) that must be identified and broken up prior to irrigation and cultivation. Lastly, we will build capacity among UNSA faculty to design and implement similar studies in the future. 

#2.3 Development of Sustainable and Innovative Solutions for Reuse of Arequipa Mine Tailings as Construction Materials

Our current research has shown that tailings collected from sites in Arequipa are rich in aluminosilicates with high potential for conversion to valuable construction materials such as cement, supplementary cementitious material, concrete, and bricks. These novel construction materials provide an additional benefit, in which toxic compounds and heavy metals are bound and immobile, thus mitigating against environmental contamination. This project aims to assess a wide range of opportunities for tailings available in the Arequipa region by chemical, physical, mineralogical, and geotechnical characterization of tailings and their products, along with a sustainability assessment of construction processes and products. 

#2.4 Hybrid Engineered Wetland Systems to Treat Metal and Nutrient Water Pollutants in River Waters in the Arequipa Region

The goal of this project is to develop and evaluate novel technological approaches that can be used for the sustainable treatment of river water pollutants. We investigate the simultaneous treatment of metals and nutrients representative of river waters in the Arequipa region. We will also assess how design variations in location (i.e. Colorado, California, and Arequipa) and water chemistry affect microbial ecological composition and functional water treatment. Limitations identified in wetland treatment will be addressed by developing and evaluating synergistic or “hybrid” treatment systems where wetlands are paired with complementary membranes, bioreactors, and/or sorptive technologies for more reliable and effective overall water treatment in yet unexplored and novel configurations. 

#2.5 Capacity Building and Management for Conflict Resolution over Natural Resources

This project uses research and workshops on managing conflict in extractive environments to connect UNSA to broader national and international stakeholders. This will set the foundations for UNSA to create the Center for Capacity Building and Management for Conflict Resolution over Natural Resources. Additionally, a series of policy briefs and toolkits will be jointly developed by Mines/UNSA faculty on specific methods and techniques that can be used to de-escalate conflict over mining and other natural resources. Key gaps in knowledge from environment, engineering, economics, social science, and international relations will be explored in order to develop recommendations towards the goal of sustainable mining in Peru and Latin America. 

#2.6 Evaluation of geoenvironmental risks for ten communities in the Arequipa region

This project provides communities in the Arequipa Region of southwestern Peru with tools to help identify and manage risks from geoenvironmental hazards such as seismic, volcanic, landslides, and flooding. In addition to protecting the public, aid for sites to prepare properly, understand the risks, minimizing the impacts of mining and other activities that affect hazards, and building capacity among UNSA faculty to complete similar studies in the future, this project will also improve our understanding of hazardous phenomena through field, laboratory, and numerical analysis. We believe this will be a valuable tool for local governments to prevent and prepare for natural hazards disasters. 

#2.7 Regional watershed sustainability: water quantity, quality, and strategic management for the 5 Arequipa watersheds

This project examines the region’s five major watersheds in order to provide a holistic, innovative, regional-scale approach to water management, addressing both quality and availability (i.e. how much clean water is available for the future). Potential pollutants and sources will be identified based on land use; geology; high-precision geochemical analyses; and state-of-the-art hydrologic and geochemical modeling in the Yauca, Ocoña, Camana, Quilca, and Tambo watersheds. Our project builds on existing site-specific data from Phase 1 (Projects 4 and 7) and site-specific remediation. Our project is distinct because we address the long-term watershed-scale water resources sustainability of all five watersheds with regard to both water availability (i.e., quantity) and water pollution, and we evaluate and propose a broad suite of water management strategies to address current and possible future problems. 

#2.8 Characterization and Evaluation for the Recovery and Production of Secondary Metals in Smelter Slag and Refinery Waste

For this project, we will provide the Metallurgy faculty at UNSA with collaboration, training and tools to help them characterize and develop technologies to treat metallurgical processing waste streams, specifically smelter slags and refinery wastes. This includes the identification of possible economic recovery methods for primary and secondary metals lost to waste, including critical metals contained in these wastes. This project will build research capacity at UNSA through training, advice and testing at Mines utilizing faculty in the Kroll Institute for Extractive Metallurgy. In addition, the program will evaluate methods to mitigate potentially troublesome environmental situations in treating the waste materials. 


Paul Santi

Professor, Colorado School of Mines
Co-Director – Center for Mining Sustainability

Francisco Domingo Alejo Zapata

Faculty, Chemistry Department
Co-Director – Center for Mining Sustainability


Faculty, Department of Geology, Geophysics and Mines
Co-Director – Center for Mining Sustainability