Mining environments: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Lottermoser, Bernd G. (2007) Mining environments: the good, the bad, and the ugly. In: Sudbury 2007 Mining and the Environment Conference Proceedings. From: Sudbury 2007 Mining and the Environment IV International Conference, 19-26 October 2007, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

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Since the first scientific observations on mining environments over 400 years ago, we have gained some phenomenal knowledge on mine, land and waterways degradation and related environmental protection issues. Yet today, we continue to be faced with numerous challenges, including the recurring failure of mine waste repositories, the unconstrained production of acid rock drainage and the widespread dispersal of contaminants from mine sites into the environment. More than ever, environmental scientists have important contributions to make as they provide the data necessary for rational decision-making in critical areas such as resource development, environmental protection, waste management and remediation, as well as mine, land and waterway rehabilitation.

The most urgent problem facing environmental scientists working on mining environments is the quantification of the interactions that control the distribution of contaminants in rocks, soils, sediments, waters and biota. We must precisely describe the chemistry and mineralogy of contaminants and understand their long-term behaviour. We need to drastically improve our scientific efforts to explain environmental processes at mine sites on all scales, including micro and macro scales as well as in 3-D and 4-D. In addition, we must improve our predictions on mine drainage, aquifer and final void water quality. While the rehabilitation of many mine sites and waste repositories is pursued by using best practices, we must continue to search for innovative, cost-effective remediation technologies and sustainable rehabilitation practices. Evaluations of recently rehabilitated mine sites could produce data on the successes and failures of rehabilitation efforts. Such studies should sharpen our ideas on the factors leading to contaminant dispersal and the development of new remediation technologies. The rehabilitation of mine sites and secure disposal of mine wastes require a new precision in the total description of mine sites and an understanding whether our current rehabilitation practices are sustainable in the long term.

There is reason for optimism that the required progress is possible. Such optimism is based on the phenomenal advances in our ability to observe and describe mining environments. However, detailed studies of natural, mined, contaminated and rehabilitated environments are necessary if we are to quantify the variables controlling the containment and dispersal of contaminants and if we are to develop innovative remediation protocols. Our efforts could ensure that the 21st century goes down in history as that of “green technologies”.

Item ID: 3243
Item Type: Conference Item (Refereed Research Paper - E1)
Keywords: uranium, gold, base metals, rehabilitation, remediation, reclamation
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ISBN: 978-0-88667-072-6
Date Deposited: 19 May 2009 01:33
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