Zeolite not kryptonite to the rescue
Pacific Blue Minerals in Tokoroa is leading the way when fighting pollution in our waters.
The company has been given the exclusive licence to manufacture for sale and global distribution, the modified mineral zeolite which is developed by Crown Research Institute, Scion.
Modified zeolite is marketed under the trade name Aqual P by Blue Pacific Minerals and has the potential to be a powerful tool in cleaning up lakes.
Scion researcher Robert Lei explained how it worked. ‘‘Zeolites are a crystal-like mineral with chemical properties and a honey- comb lattice structure that give it amazing absorptive properties. We have modified it to specifically target and lock up phosphorus.
‘‘Basically the product is applied to the water surface and as it sinks it absorbs phosphorus then settles on the bottom to act as a sediment cap. This cap blocks further release of phosphorus from the sediments, locking the phosphorus in,’’ Mr Lei said.
Blue Pacific marketing development manager Bernard Novak said the growing company was half-way through expanding its manufacturing plant.
‘‘ We currently mine
two minerals – zeolite and perlite. Perlite is used mainly in cryogenics. Both are unique minerals.’’
Mr Novak said the agreement was ‘‘exciting times’’ for the company which employs 20 people with four more jobs possible.
‘‘Demand has grown to the point that expansion is necessary. This district is unique regarding the minerals found here.’’
A large chunk of the minerals was exported Mr Novak said.
The company is in talks with the South Waikato District Council about creating a rail side which will link the company with the Port of Tauranga. The facts Zeolite is a volcanic mineral traditionally used in absorbency markets, such as for chemical spill products, and in sports turf and cat litter. Now modified by Scion scientists based in Rotorua, the transformed product acts as a binding agent, attracting phosphorus and other polluting nutrients in waterways. By removing excess phosphorus and other nutrients from the water it reduces the conditions that lead to unwanted algal blooms.
Compared to other materials, modified zeolite offers significant advantages. It is highly efficient at removing phosphorus so less of the mineral is needed and it also removes other prominent water pollutants such as nitrogen. New Zealand has good sources of high quality zeolite close to sea ports.
With declining water quality a significant national concern, commercial applications of modified zeolite are promising.
Potential markets include treatment of lakes, irrigation reservoirs, domestic and commercial fish ponds and aquariums, farm dams and troughs, golf course ponds, water storage systems in nurseries and other irrigators.