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Hydrogeochemistry and microbiology of mine drainage: An update

July 15, 2015

The extraction of mineral resources requires access through underground workings, or open pit operations, or through drillholes for solution mining. Additionally, mineral processing can generate large quantities of waste, including mill tailings, waste rock and refinery wastes, heap leach pads, and slag. Thus, through mining and mineral processing activities, large surface areas of sulfide minerals can be exposed to oxygen, water, and microbes, resulting in accelerated oxidation of sulfide and other minerals and the potential for the generation of low-quality drainage. The oxidation of sulfide minerals in mine wastes is accelerated by microbial catalysis of the oxidation of aqueous ferrous iron and sulfide. These reactions, particularly when combined with evaporation, can lead to extremely acidic drainage and very high concentrations of dissolved constituents. Although acid mine drainage is the most prevalent and damaging environmental concern associated with mining activities, generation of saline, basic and neutral drainage containing elevated concentrations of dissolved metals, non-metals, and metalloids has recently been recognized as a potential environmental concern. Acid neutralization reactions through the dissolution of carbonate, hydroxide, and silicate minerals and formation of secondary aluminum and ferric hydroxide phases can moderate the effects of acid generation and enhance the formation of secondary hydrated iron and aluminum minerals which may lessen the concentration of dissolved metals. Numerical models provide powerful tools for assessing impacts of these reactions on water quality.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Hydrogeochemistry and microbiology of mine drainage: An update
DOI 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2015.02.008
Authors D. Kirk Nordstrom, D.W Blowes, C.J. Ptacek
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Applied Geochemistry
Index ID 70189945
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Central Branch

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