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Environmental Impacts of Acidic Drainage on Gold Mining Sites

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 1597 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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“Consider an environmental impact that mining has on mining sites. What environment risk management measures can ensure the project operates most successfully for all stakeholders? Limit your scope by type of mining.”

During the mining period, the findings from Morales (2013) states that human activity, for instance, gold mining can have an effect on the environment. Gold mining frequently utilizes fundamental technologies that include amalgamation with heavy metals in the extraction procedures. The acidic drainage from the gold mining process is a permanent ecological issue all over the world. After Acid Mining Drainage (AMD) is created, it is problematic to control the procedure and the treatment additionally required highly expense (Kefeni, Msagati, & Mamba, 2017). Untreated acid mining drainage is polluting the environment directly to streams and aquifers (Gazea, Adam, & Kontopoulos, 1996). In the worst possible situation, the food chains on the water ecosystem will greater be affected by the death of aquatic animals. In addition, Gazea et al. (1996) claim that the pH scale measures of water will decrease and stream bottoms will be covered by a tier of small rust particles. The purpose of this essay is to discuss environmental impacts of acidic drainage on gold mining sites and provide strategies to minimize risk by improvement of water quality which are passive mine water treatment and active treatment of polluted waters from mining sites. It will argue that passive treatment system is the optimal option for the stakeholders because of the economical way, eco-friendly process and less voluminous of hazardous wastes.

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There are several impacts that result from acidic mine drainage in gold production. Acid drainage is a pollution that attacks the water environment in gold mining areas around the world (Zipper, Skousen, & Jage, 2018). This is because of workers in the locale not comply with mining laws and regulations by released the contaminated waters from the mining production into the stream or river. Moreover, workers in gold mining in the region is a casual division with almost no government control (Ogola et al., 2002). The contaminated waters from infringement of a law are discharged directly into the water that impacts on the environment severely. As a result, drainage of contaminated and released low pH water into aquatic ecology lead to the loss of fish, and other components of water environment because aquatic life cannot survive in an acidic environment, normally not underneath 4.5 pH (Ogola et al., 2002). Thus, consequences of non-compliance with applicable laws by miners can cause extremely serious problems, especially acidic mine drainage that released into the water environment.

The first potential solution to deal with polluted water is the active treatment system. Younger, Banwart, and Hedin (2002) state that active treatment can be defined as the enhancement of water quality by techniques which require progressing contributions of imitation resources and biochemical solution. To be more specific, the solution utilized in active treatment are generally alkaline fluids or solids, and natural polymers. The key advantage of active treatment method is the extension for exact process control. An important example of this is portion rates of solutions, acceleration of pumps and blenders, and different parts of the treatment operation can be balanced immediately in order to respond to the unstable in loadings or accepting water conditions. Moreover, active treatment system particularly suited to the administration of water quality during mining activities (Younger et al., 2002). On the other hand, the main disadvantage of active treatment is that required proceeded with the expansion of chemical solution, frequently effective support and checking, and mechanical equipment to blend the solutions with the water (Lottermoser, 2003). Therefore, determination of the most suitable procedure for treatment of a given mine water ought to be based on the discretion of the mine water quality. The active treatment system can adjust the unstable in loadings immediately and the process can be started in a mine that is operating at all times. However, this system requires a frequency of preventative maintenance and inspection, and advanced technology devices to perform functions most efficiently and effectively.

Another possible treatment of contaminated water is to use passive mine water treatment. The passive treatment is frequently used to retain acid mine drainage and more suitable for application at deserted mines than the general stream water (Kefeni et al., 2017). In order to become more successful, the treatment must be effective and consistent. After completing the entire process, the ecology of toxic metals will remove from the water environment. Moreover, there are several advantages in passive treatments. Firstly, it is usually conceivable to plan passive treatment to work for quite a long time or more than a decade with insignificant for administrator intercession and the lowest maintenance cost. Secondly, passive treatment technologies used non-toxic elements in operating systems. According to Younger et al. (2002), passive treatment is the purposeful enhancement of waters quality by utilizing only natural vitality sources. Lastly, the system is effective at revamping waters with low pH, high causticity, and corrosive solvent with high concentrations on mining sites. In contrast, passive treatment innovation is still generally modern, and consequently expertise in this technology is still inadequate. Furthermore, the initial cost is very high to construct new technology for this treatment system. Hence, the objective of passive treatment operation is to increase the performance of the natural quality improvement process. In addition, this treatment system requires low maintenance and operations cost, but on the other hand, the construction cost is extremely expensive and this technology is lacking in specialist development.

Comparing the two results, it can be seen that the passive treatment system is the optimal alternative for the stakeholders. It was chosen because of from the economic perspective, the passive treatment system does not desire continuous chemical addition (Kefeni et al., 2017). In addition, the passive processes have a reasonable price and cheaper than the active methods. This is because the system is designed to last a long time with negligible for administrator intervention and unnecessary for frequent maintenance. Kefeni et al. (2017) found significant differences between passive and active methods. The results of this observation indicate that the waste from passive process produced is less quantity, and the system is more stable in contrast to the active process that produced a high amount of sludge throughout the chemical operation. Furthermore, passive treatment has less impact on the entire ecological system because of naturally pertinent materials are typically utilized amid the treatment. Consequently, the results from Kefeni et al. (2017) support the idea that passive system is the ideal treatment option for disposal of contaminated water with inexpensive costs and lower environmental impact compared to the active system.

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In conclusion, the passive treatment system has become a part of an acid mine drainage treatment procedure. According to Zipper et al. (2018), it can operate as either an independent treatment process or as pre-treatment to diminish the expense of the active system. The passive treatment system develops into an ideal alternative for the collaborator over the active treatment because of the cheaper costs and environmentally friendly process. Effective of the passive treatment process that focused on reduced contaminated of water released to the aquatic environment will providing long-term participation to the mining community. Furthermore, in order to achieve a goal, Supportability Centre should incorporate to focus on improvement of the environment in the community, and the social and cultural characteristics of the mining community members should also be taken into account.

Reference lists

  • Gazea, B., Adam, K., & Kontopoulos, A. (1996). A review of passive systems for the treatment of acid mine drainage. Minerals engineering, 9(1), 23-42.
  • Kefeni, K. K., Msagati, T. A., & Mamba, B. B. (2017). Acid mine drainage: prevention, treatment options, and resource recovery: a review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 151, 475-493.
  • Lottermoser, B. (2003). Mine Water Mine wastes (pp. 83-141): Springer.
  • Morales, S. (2013). Environmental assessment of mercury pollution in urban tailings from gold mining. Ecotoxicology and environmental safety, 90, 167-173.
  • Ogola, J. S., Mitullah, W. V., & Omulo, M. A. (2002). Impact of gold mining on the environment and human health: a case study in the Migori gold belt, Kenya. Environmental geochemistry and health, 24(2), 141-157.
  • Younger, P. L., Banwart, S. A., & Hedin, R. S. (2002). Mine water hydrology Mine Water (pp. 127-270): Springer.
  • Zipper, C. E., Skousen, J. G., & Jage, C. R. (2018). Passive treatment of acid-mine drainage.


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