Acid mine drainage prevention and control options

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 95, No. 1060, 2002

N. Kuyucak

Acid mine drainage (AMD) is one of the most significant environmental challenges facing the mining industry worldwide. It occurs as a result of natural oxidation of sulphide minerals contained in mining wastes at operating and closed/decommissioned mine sites. AMD may adversely impact the surface water and groundwater quality and land use due to its typical low pH, high acidity and elevated concentrations of metals and sulphate content. Once it develops at a mine, its control can be difficult and expensive. If generation of AMD cannot be prevented, it must be collected and treated. Treatment of AMD usually costs more than control of AMD and may be required for many years after mining activities have ceased. Therefore, application of appropriate control methods to the site at the early stage of the mining would be beneficial. Although prevention of AMD is the most desirable option, a cost-effective prevention method is not yet available. The most effective method of control is to minimize penetration of air and water through the waste pile using a cover, either wet (water) or dry (soil), which is placed over the waste pile. Despite their high cost, these covers cannot always completely stop the oxidation process and generation of AMD. Application of more than one option might be required. Early diagnosis of the problem, identification of appropriate prevention/control measures and implementation of these methods to the site would reduce the potential risk of AMD generation. AMD prevention/control measures broadly include use of covers, control of the source, migration of AMD, and treatment. This paper provides an overview of AMD prevention and control options applicable for developing, operating and decommissioned mines.
Mots Clés: Acid mine drainage, Prevention, Tailings, Environment, Waste, Sulphides