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Mitigation Plan
Mining Operation Impacts on Water Quality and Quantity
By Bridget Guiza

Image: Yanacocha mine in

Peru. Largest and most
profitable in the world.
Bebbington and Bury, 2009.

It was predicted that in the later half of the twentieth century, the demand for metal and coal
resources would increase as a direct consequence of population growth and the advancement of
industrialization. It was also warned that these same factors would lead inevitably to internal conflict
and negative environmental and social consequences (Hodges, 1995). One of those environmental
consequences is acid mine drainage (AMD) which occurs when waters drain naturally from abandoned
mine workings and flooded mines. Acid mine waters can mix with surface waters creating an acidic
environment capable of killing aquatic flora and disrupting the food chain. This loss of water quality
can be rendered useless and impact surrounding communities livelihoods (Robb and Robinson, 1995).
Acid mine drainage has been predominant in the highland regions of Peru where the location of mining
workings have been placed near the upper reaches of watersheds (Bebbington and Bury, 2009). As a
consequence, there are mitigation techniques and regulations that have been proposed and can be
used as guidelines to help control acid mine drainage and assuage social conflicts. Here, a plan is
offered to provide solutions that can be used as a guide for land use planners in the specific region of
Peru, but that can also be translated for use in other regions as well.

Keywords: mining, water quality and quantity, United States, Peru, mitigation


What is Acid Mine Drainage?
Acid mine drainage (AMD) is caused
by the mining of coal and other natural
resources. The mineral pyrite, or iron sulfide,

Robinson, 1995). This challenges mitigation

efforts due to the complexity of the issue.
Drivers that affect AMD include:

is typically found near coal mining sites and

physical factors, geochemical weathering

is a major contributor to water pollution

processes, and biogeochemical relationships

(Kendrick, 1977). AMD occurs because rock

(INAP, 2014). Physical factors specifically

is broken during the mining process to gain

related to mining activities include: waste

access to the ore. The rock is then placed

rock, tailings and coal refuse, spent ore and

somewhere else on the site and ground

leach residues, open or filled pits, and

thoroughly to remove the ores while the rock

underground mine structures, to name a few.

is placed in tailings (Bebbington and

Each source of AMD must be understood and

Williams, 2005). When the surface of the rock

described with relation to the water table,

containing pyrite is exposed to air and water

specifically in terms of seepage and flow,

it can be oxidized to form sulfuric acid, which

degree of saturation, and other hydraulic

can pollute waterways such as streams,

properties (INAP, 2014). Geochemical

rivers and groundwater via runoff and

weathering processes essentially are the

leaching through soils and waste dumps

control force behind the generation of AMD.

(Kendrick, 1977). Coalmine drainage

In addition, biogeochemical relationships are

typically contains elevated concentrations of

translated into the physical contact between

iron, manganese, sulphate and aluminum.

water and energy with topographical

Metal mining, also attributed to AMD, is

features and geology. In open pit mines,

typically associated with the aforementioned

wastes accumulate on the surface and are in

metals in addition to zinc, copper, lead,

contact with atmospheric conditions leading

arsenic and cadmium that contribute to

to oxidation and thus AMD (INAP, 2014). The

waterway pollution leaving it unsuitable for

extent to which AMD forms and accumulates

aquatic life, drinking and recreational usage

depends on the geographical locations and

(Kendrick, 1977; Robb and Robinson, 1995).

weather patterns. Thus, this reiterates the

However, the nature of AMD varies between

point that mitigation efforts are site specific.

locations and within areas (Robb and

Figure 1 and 2 illustrate the issue of

AMD (also known as acid rock drainage)


from both underground and open pit mines

because there is usually no continued

during operation and after closure when

maintenance due to costs, leaving waterways

maintenance is minimum or non-existent.

vulnerable to contaminated waters exposed

Precipitates (mineral solids) continue to form

to atmospheric conditions. Resource needs,

and together with rain, runoff and leaching

demands and world trade of nonfuel mineral

have the potential to contaminate waterways.

commodities have increased throughout the

Nonrenewable Natural Resource Demand
The demand for extraction of metal

decades not only in the United States but also

in other nations (Hodges, 1995).
Technological improvements in mining and

and coal production increased to comfort the

metal recovery in addition to cost reduction

Second World War efforts. Thereafter, mines

have allowed for large-scale extraction

were abandoned and in the 1960s public

operations to flourish. However, in more

concern for environmental degradation

recent decades advancement in recycling

targeted contaminated waters including the

capabilities and substitutions in material use,

issue of AMD (Kendrick, 1977). Abandoned

such as plastics and ceramics, have begun to

coalmines are a major contributor to AMD

cause a decline in mineral resource

extraction (Hodges, 1995). The central issue
today exists in the abandonment of mine
workings. For example in the United States
52 abandoned sites have been marked as
Superfund sites by the Environmental
Protection Agency, primarily due to AMD
(Hodges, 1995).
Impacts on Human Inhabitants
Case Study: Peru
Locations of mining operations in Peru are
placed near the upper reaches of watersheds.
These watersheds supply water to major cities
in Peru and are essential for Perus export

Figures 1 and 2: Acid Mine Drainage from

underground mines and open pit mines. Also know
as acid rock drainage (INAP, 2014)

coastal agriculture (Bebbington and Bury,


2009; Bebbington and Williams, 2005). Of the

contamination. (Bebbington and Bury, 2009).

mining concessions approved, 33% have been

Peru already faces other major environmental

located 4000 meters above sea level, while

issues, as it is both a water-stressed country

58% have been located 3000 meters above

and is faced with uncertain climate change

sea level (Bebbington and Bury, 2009). Experts

effects, as predicted by The Tyndall Centre for

estimate that about 50% of peasant

Climate Change Research. For example, since

communities in these upper watersheds and in

1970 Lima, Peru faces precipitation deficits as !

the coasts of Peru have been affected by mining

operations. Environmental costs have been
feared to be unacceptably high and major
conflicts arising include local livelihood
sustainability, consumption, wellbeing, health
and creditworthiness of national governments

of glaciers supplying coastal watersheds

diminish. Water quality issues associated with
mining can transcend across space and time via
rivers and aquifers lasting many generations
and thus greatly impacting livelihoods. Natural
hazards such as earthquakes also affect

(Bebbington and Williams, 2005). Also, around

already-established mitigation or containment

1970, 29% of the population had no access to

efforts near mining concessions such as dams

piped water and more than half of major rivers

containing tailings which are at risk from

used for water supplies were and continue to

seismic activity and below-ground water

be contaminated by accumulated mining in

infiltration (Bebbington and Williams, 2005).

addition to hydrocarbon and human waste

Together, these environmental hazards,

Figure 3 : Increase in mining concessions. Piura, Peru has seen a large

increase. Bebbington and Williams, 2005.


coupled with local government encouragement

overall increased livelihood insecurity was

of multinational corporations concessions in

observed. This was a direct cause of the

Peru, fuel conflict between local stakeholders

altering of livelihood resources such as

and government. In addition there is a lack of

agriculture and livestock feasibility. Peasants

transparency and planning strategies that urge

living in high elevations who were accustomed

to be addressed in the region. Figure 3

to grazing their livestock there were forced to

illustrates increasing mining activity in Peru

move to lower elevations and as they

throughout the decades.

compensated by increasing their agricultural

Surface land rights were initially held by

intensity, soil fertility was negatively affected

peasant communities and assured sustainable

(Bebbington and Bury, 2009).

usage of the land. These rights gave access to

In addition to this outmigration as a result of

natural resources that served as livelihood

mining expansion, scientific studies on waster

assets, reserves for future generations, items of

chemistry in Cajamarca, Peru have confirmed

consumption, and were sources of cultural

that water quality downstream has failed all

identity (Bebbington and Bury, 2009). Conflicts

major quality standards. A major recurrent

began when the transfer of these land rights

issue is that of water quality and quantity

were issued between the years 1992-2000

monitoring. There is increasing mistrust

where $5 billion was paid to more than 250

between the residents/local stakeholders and

households in affected communities as

the mining sector in the use of certain water

compensation. For example, in Cajamarca, Peru,

monitoring indicators. Resident indicators are

these land right transfers paid for the land,

vernacular and include the everyday

provided offers for employment, community

monitoring of the landscape while mining

development programs and other services

sector indicators are quantitative and

(Bebbington and Bury, 2009). A follow-up

structured. The distrust occurs when residents

study by Bebbington and Bury confirmed that

mistrust quantitative indicators because they

out of 52 random households in four

do not understand them, and because the data

communities, only 29% of that sample size

come from scientists hired by the mining

reported increased access to health and school

companies (Bebbington and Bury, 2009). In

services as promised by the land transfer

addition, the mining sector does not trust

agreements. In addition, 45% of these

vernacular indicators.

household annual incomes declined and an


Investigating Solutions: Acid Mine Drainage

method is that peak flows of a river may not

There are temporary methods and options for

correlate with mine water peak levels and may

the amelioration of AMD including both passive

cause dam overflow. A third tool is the

and active systems. Temporary tools that target

maintenance of the existing pumps after mine

the source pollution are essentially civil

closure. This is very costly but it assures that

engineering methods, which lessen the impact

precipitates are collected before water body

of AMD. One such tool is the use of a pipeline

contamination potential. The main issue with

for discharge and dilution at sea, if the mine

this solution is that mine workings have

discharge is near a coastal region. This solution

complex flow patterns, which make it difficult

has a very high initial capital cost (Rob and

to predict size and location of discharge (Robb

Robinson, 1995). Some considerations for using and Robinson, 1995).

water bodies for subaqueous disposal include

Active treatment for AMD is the neutralization

proximity to mines i.e. water level, tides and

of mine waters via the addition of chemicals

currents, potential toxicity of wastes, potential

such as calcium hydroxide (lime), sodium

effects on flora and fauna, potential loss of

hydroxide (caustic soda) and magnesium

habitat, and water chemistry (INAP, 2014).

hydroxide. In addition to neutralization, the

Another tool is the use of a holding dam

sludge that forms must be collected which adds

containing the mine waters. This dam would

costs for the building and operating of a

work in conjunction with a river body with the

chemical treatment plant in addition to the fees

use of an automatic flow gauge that monitors

for sludge disposal. Other active treatments

the flow in the river and therefore releases

include dissolved air floatation and ion

mine waters when there are high river flows

exchange (Robb and Robinson, 1995).

and stops flow when there are low river flows.

A primary approach to the prevention and

High river flows indicate high dilution potential

mitigation of AMD is to minimize the supply of

(Rob and Robinson, 1995). Criteria for stream

the reactants, such as the sulphide minerals

flow regulation include: a) measuring risk, b)

(from pyrite, for example) and/or maximize the

measuring peak loadings c) monitoring

amount of the neutralizing reactants as

downstream dispersion and dilution and d)

mentioned above (INAP, 2014). These goals

minimizing risk of severe erosion e) minimizing are: a) minimizing oxidation sources b)

risk of structural instability, especially after

minimizing water infiltration/leaching c)

mine closure (INAP, 2014). An issue with this

minimizing, removing or isolating sulphide


minerals d) maximizing acid neutralizing

order to remove most metals in wetlands. Thus,

minerals and pore water alkalinity f)

organic material must contain sulphate-

controlling bacterial and biogeochemical

reducing bacteria which leads to the

processes (INAP, 2014). Passive treatment for

production of hydrogen sulphide gas. This gas

AMD is the construction of wetlands both

dissolves and reacts with heavy metals making

aerobic and anaerobic. AMD from deep coal

heavy metal sulphide precipitates, which are

mines is commonly oxygen-deficient and in

removed (Rob and Robinson, 1995). For

reducing conditions (iron is in the ferrous

manganese, cyanobacteria can be attached to

state). Oxidation here is controlled by bacteria

rocks causing manganese to precipitate. For

and occurs very slowly in a matter of days.

aluminum, adsorption onto surface of organic

Aerobic wetland systems are designed to

matter can be encouraged or the use of bacteria

encourage a faster oxidation process by

in an anoxic slurry pond causing elevated pH

exposing mine waters to more surface area, and can be used (Rob and Robinson, 1995). In
thus more air and a vegetated surface (Rob and

essence, wetland covers use soil, vegetation,

Robinson, 1995). Alkalinity is also added to

and water overlying AMD. The soil helps

maintain a steady pH ensuring iron removal (in

prevent drying events and vegetation helps

the ferric state). In addition, organic matter is

prevent erosion. These conditions encourage

added as a growth substrate for plants in the

precipitation of AMD products for adsorption

wetland system which function as oxygen-

and collection (INAP, 2014). Issues with the

passing agents contributing to the overall

construction of wetland treatment systems

increase in pH (to alkaline levels) by making

include land availability, which depends on the

carbon dioxide, which dissolves and consumes

size of the mining operation site. There also has

hydrogen ions (Rob and Robinson, 1995).

yet to be more research into processes,

Once iron is removed, other metals such as

operations, effectiveness, resilience and

zinc, copper, cadmium, lead and mercury need

structural integrity of these systems.

to be removed. This involves the construction

of an anaerobic wetland system. In this system

Investigation Solutions: Social Conflicts

mine water flows through a body of organic

The conflicting views between the mining

material such as compost and manure. Because

sector and residential stakeholders can be

mine water has high levels of sulphate,

mitigated by the implementation of a

minerals of this substrate must be removed in

comprehensive communication plan and a


monitoring plan for scientific studies. The

would be implemented with the goal of

communication plan would include information

answering the question: Have mining activities

transparency on the state of water quality and

changed the quality of water so much that

quantity. It would also require regular

water is unsafe for domestic, agricultural or

communication to the public at large. In

aquatic life? The primary standards

addition, it would require the availability of all

implemented would be those of the World

data types collected as part of the monitoring

Health Organization (WHO), United States

plan including historical and raw data,

Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA),

sampling site location information, graphs and

and Environment Canada, which use

maps, and other relevant information such as

toxicological data on human and biota risks

chemical analyses of analytes and the

(Bebbington and Williams, 2005).

implications of data relative to industry and

The use of participatory geographic

environmental standards (Bebbington and

information systems (PGIS) would be

Williams, 2005). The monitoring plan for

imperative in both the comprehensive

scientific studies would be required to have a

communication plan and the monitoring plan.

formal, independent, external verification

This tool would allow for citizen involvement in

program that is not associated in any way to

data acquisition and contribute to enhancing

the mining interests of the existing

their participation in local decision-making

stakeholders or any mining stakeholders

affecting local land use. The premise of PGIS is

(Bebbington and Williams, 2005). The

that the public holds access to GIS data and

monitoring plan can be employed prior to,

maps that might lead to changes in social

during and after the closing of any mine.

paradigms, including the empowerment of

Advantages to this approach in water

traditionally marginalized groups within the

monitoring include: a) baseline information of

society and the democratizing of local, land-

natural water quality prior to mining

based decision-making (Jankowski, 2009). To

operations b) comparison of data to investigate

help with the comprehensive communication

and understand the contribution of mining

plan, citizen panels should include decision-

operations on water bodies (baseline and

makers, experts, citizens, organized interests,

current) and c) the use of monitoring wells as

profits and nonprofits, planners, and public

an early warning system. (Bebbington and

administrators. Specifically, in water resource

Williams, 2005). Water quality standards

decision-making, collaboration is imperative in


allowing for a spatial decision support system.

firm overexploitation and noncompliance. The

In essence, PGIS is the integration of scientific

use of environmental management systems

knowledge and evidence via institutional

(EMS) involves the continued research of mine

procedures coupled with the views and

design and technology resilience and safety as

experiences of those affected by decisions, i.e.

described in the solutions section to the AMD

the resident stakeholders (Jankowski, 2009).

issue. Green technologies also fall under EMS as

the solutions to AMD contribute to natural

Best Management Practices: Technology and

resource recycling potential. Under a Mining


Law reform, mining companies are required to

Planners can use the following strategies and

use the best technology currently available

suggestions in collaboration with other

(BTCA) in the prevention and mitigation of

industry stakeholders in mitigating the effects

hazards. PGIS is also a valuable tool in the

of AMD on both the environment and resident

implementation of communication and

livelihoods. Industry-wide codes should

environmental monitoring plans as described

include: a) high environmental standards b)

in the last section. Finally, participatory

emphasis on enforcing those standards c)

ecological zoning as a planning tool is the

institute comprehensive environmental

process of mediating between divergent

management systems that work to avoid and

interests and knowledge systems by allowing

minimize impacts d) implementation of green

the combination of local and expert

technologies e) comprehensive communication

assessments of the functions and appropriate

plans f) monitoring plans and g) ecological

uses of land (Bebbington and Bury, 2009). This


type of zoning is important if the expansion of

High environmental standards are translated to

the mining sector is going to align with resident

the requirement of multinational firms to

livelihoods and watershed geographies in the

adhere to industry-wide codes and standards


from their own developed countries in addition

Policy measures that planners should address

to complying to laws and regulations as they

in mitigating both AMD and social conflicts

exist in their own countries, which are usually

include the use of the International Association

stricter. Every developing nation should strictly

of Public Participation (IAPP) levels of public

enforce those standards by the use of a law that

participation as part of existing legislation,

protects developing nations from multinational

which are: a) inform b) consult c) involve d)


collaborate and e) empower (Jankowski, 2009).

implement a new Mining Law that clearly

The first two focus on the use of information in

delineates: 1) indigenous/resident land rights;

the form of maps and photo imagery to show

stipulating the right to prior consultation and

the extent of an issue. The last three focus on

to free, prior and informed consent before any

the use of models and analytical tools in

relocation from their lands 2) and resembles

addition to information and communication

the United States Surface Mining Control and

tools. An institutional innovation includes the

Reclamation Act of 1977 and Clean Water Act

creation of a Ministry of Environment in

which addresses the AMD issue as it caused by

developing nations, such as Peru, with the

abandoned mines by implementing a fund for

following adjustments: a) re-establish the


mission and capabilities of the Ministry of

Environment to include the regulation of

Regulatory Framework: Integrative

mining activities and the conducting of

Ecosystem and Watershed Management for

environmental impact assessments (EIA) and

Sustainable Mining Communities

Life-Cycle Assessments (LCA) b) designate a

The following criteria should be used as a guide

third party not affiliated with industry or

in mitigating AMD and social livelihood

government to conduct EIA and LCA c) allow

impacts. It can be adopted and translated for

for the distribution of mine-taxes and

use in a variety of mining projects.

assignations of environmental investment

Use the principles of ecosystem and watershed

projects to mine-affected regions, such as

management: a) best science b) ecological

participatory water monitoring as a proactive

integrity c) multiple scales d) balanced values

measure; mine-taxes should be used by

e) stakeholder participation f) conservation

municipal governments to enhance technical

and restoration g) diversity of actions h)

and social capacity of mine-affected regions d)

transdisciplinary approaches i) mutually

work independently from the Ministry of

beneficial solutions j) adaptive management

Finance and instead work with local

(Adapted from Randolph, 2012).

jurisdictions and stakeholders e) permit

1. Stakeholder Issues: Set-up a team that

designation as per the following standards:

combines stakeholder involvement forming an

company history of environmental and social

advisory committee of experts, organizations,

stewardship as determined by affected public

community members, third parties, and

stakeholders and third parties, and f)

government entities.


a) identify stakeholders; established authority

weekly; monitoring wells should be numerous

b) structure the process: milestones/deadlines

and spatially distributed (delineate wellhead

c) achieve trust: respect/understanding

protection areas), establish total maximum

d) share authority and assign roles

daily loads (TMDL) of contaminants.

e) engage in collaborative learning: state

b.ii) assess groundwater: modeling, DRASTIC

issues, identify hidden agendas, develop shared

studies, develop management program

values, restate the problem, delineate focus

(remediation and prevention)

area, seek creative solutions (Adapted from

3) Continued Monitoring and Evaluation: In the

Randolph, 2012)

decommission and post-closure phases,

2. Stakeholder Assessment, Evaluation,

mitigation efforts similar to those in the

Implementation: Establish Methods for

solutions section should be implemented in

Prevention and Mitigation of AMD (or acid rock

appropriate combinations according to the

drainage) as shown in Figure 4 (INAP 2014).

specific site and in accordance with the

a) Assessment of Impacts: In the first three

Industry-wide codes and developing country-

phases characterization and prediction will

wide legislation.

serve to determine whether or not project

a) Building Community Consensus: define

should move forward.

objectives, procedures, long-term post-mining

a.i) Conduct EIA and LCA: background data and

measures that maintain acceptable water

planning analysis.

quality/quantity levels.

b) Evaluation and Selection of Plan: In the

note: mine closure plans should be made public

construction phase and operation phase, civil

before initiation of mine

engineering and/or passive/active treatments

b) Use of Non-regulatory Tools: Mining Project

should be assessed and implemented as

(Development Impact) Fees; Tax Policies;

delineated in the solutions section.

recycling of sludge; public education;

b.i) Implementation, Monitoring,

continuous water monitoring

Postimplementation Evaluation, Modification

c) Use of Regulatory Tools: ecological zoning,

(water monitoring): measured at all sites

overlay zoning

adjacent and related to the mine site, daily to


Figure 4 : Methods for P revention and

Mitigation of AMD (INAP, 2014).

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