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MINE5008 Responsible Mining

Week 3.2: Acid Mine Drainage

Dr. Guang Xu
Email: Guang.Xu@curtin.edu.au
www.xu-guang.com
Overview
What is Acid Mine Drainage (AMD)
Sulphide minerals are commonly associated with many ore types
The oxidation of these minerals and subsequent leaching of their
acid oxidation products including sulphuric acid leads to AMD
Discharge of acid solutions from mine workings is known as Acid
Mine Drainage (AMD) or Acid Rock Drainage (ARD)

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Overview
Sulphides
Pyrite
Pyrrhotite
Chalcopyrite
Chalcocite
Tetrahedrite Pyrite Pyrrhotite Marcasite

Galena
Commonly found in waste rock dumps, mines,
and tailings

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Overview
AMD is one of the most difficult and expensive
environmental problems faced by mining
companies
Australia annual costs
$30 million covers
$14 million selective handling
$6 million analysis and handling
$12 million water treatment

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Overview
Most gold and copper mines, and many silver,
lead, zinc, and nickel mines have the potential
for AMD
Many coal mines are also subject to AMD due
to the presence of pyrite within the coal,
overburden, or interburden

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Overview
Some uranium deposits are associated with
sulphide minerals (e.g. the Rum Jungle deposit),
while others are not.
AMD is not associated with oxidized ores
These include lateritic mining operations for bauxite
or nickel, iron and manganese mines, and many near
surface gold and copper operations

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Overview
Where AMD occurs
Runoff from surface excavations for access roads,
drains, and site facilities
Drainage or seepage from underground excavations
Runoff from open pit mines exposures in pit walls,
berms, and the mine floor
Seepages of contaminated groundwater into surface
or underground mines

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Overview
Where AMD occurs
Percolation through and drainage from rock masses
fragmented by block caving or subsidence
Runoff and/or drainage from stockpiles
Runoff and/or drainage from waste rock storage
Seepage or overflow from tailing storage facilities
Runoff from spillages or remnants of mineral
concentrates around stockpiles, bins, conveyor
transfer points, etc.

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Overview

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Acid mine drainage
The development of AMD has three stage
processes
Oxidation
Leaching
Drainage

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Acid mine drainage
Oxidation reactions require sulphide, oxygen
and water
4 FeS2 + 15 O2 + 7 H2O 4 Fe(OH)3 +8 H2SO4

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Acid mine drainage
Leaching
Oxidation of sulphide minerals in itself, does not
necessarily pose a problem
The adverse effects occur after the acidic oxidation
products are flushed from their source or dissolved in
water (called leaching) with the resulting leachate
solution discharged to the environment.
Most leaching occurs in response to rainfall

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Acid mine drainage
Drainage
Dewatering of surface and underground mines
Seepage from waste rock dumps or ore stockpiles
Seepage from the base of tailings storages
Overflow from tailings storages or evaporation ponds

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Factors influencing AMD
Chemical
Enough reactive sulphide species present to react at
faster rate than can be neutralised by acid-
neutralising minerals

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Factors influencing AMD
Physical
Waste emplacement plumbing allowing enough
water and oxygen to support chemical and biological
reactions

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Factors influencing AMD
Climate
Rainfall is sufficient that leachate results
Hot and wet conditions are most favourable

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Factors influencing AMD
The above mentioned factors can be classed as
Primary
Directly involved in generation of sulphide oxidation
products
Secondary
Involved in consumption and alteration of oxidation
products
Tertiary
Physical factors such as materials, mine site
topography and climate

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Factors influencing AMD
Primary factors
Water availability
Oxygen availability
Physical characteristics
Particle size, shape, permeability affect water
movement

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Factors influencing AMD
Primary factors (to lesser degree than previous)
Temperature
2 times rate increase with 10 degree rise
pH
Microbiological activity
Catalyse sulphide and Fe(II) oxidation
T. ferro-oxidans and T. thio-oxidans

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Factors influencing AMD
Secondary factors
Type of acid-neutralising species
Carbonate minerals more effective than
silicate/alumino-silicate minerals
Amount of acid-neutralising species
Partial pressure of O2 in waste emplacement
Effect of catalysing bacteria enhanced by increase in
oxygen partial pressure

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Factors influencing AMD
Tertiary factors
Rainfall
Surface run-off and infiltration subsequent to rainfall are
most significant transportation of oxidation products
Temperature
Under high temperature conditions infiltration water held
in upper levels is rapidly evaporated
Biological activity
Attenuation of metal load can occur by absorption and
precipitation e.g. wetlands

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Factors influencing AMD
Tertiary factors
Physical nature of waste emplacement
Less oxidation in compacted fine grained waste, more
in coarse material
Chemistry of receiving waters
Metal toxicity affected by water hardness, alkalinity and
dissolved organic matter

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Effects of AMD
Effects on operations
Corrosion of concrete foundations, culverts, metallic
pipes, and walk ways
In some situations, sulphur dioxide fumes may be
generated from the pit walls, which may settle in
lower parts of the pit, presenting a hazard to the
workforce

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Effects of AMD
Ecological effects
The most serious effects of AMD occur in freshwater
aquatic ecosystems
Reduced diversity and reduced populations of aquatic
plants and aquatic invertebrates occur when pH<5
Most biota will die when pH<4

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Effects of AMD
Social and community effects
Water used for drinking and bathing may be
contaminated by AMD
The ecological effects of AMD can be detrimental to
local communities, particularly when aquatic
resources contribute to subsistence
AMD commonly causes adverse visual effects

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Predicting AMD
Net Acid Producing Potential (NAPP)
1. Acid production potential
Measure sulphur content and calculate sulphuric acid
production
2. Acid consuming capacity
Measure how much sulphuric acid the ore can consume
3. if 1>2, can get and AMD problem

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Predicting AMD
Net Acid Generation test
Reaction of a sample with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)
If < 5kg sulphuric acid per tonne, low acid forming
capacity
If >5kg sulphuric acid per tonne, high acid forming
capacity

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Predicting AMD
Block modelling
Create AMD block model
using the testing results and
classification results
Applicable at all stages:
exploration, pre-feasibility,
mine design

Source: Mining and the environment from ore to metal


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AMD control
Primary control
Prevent the acid generation
Secondary control
Prevent the contaminant migration
Tertiary control
Collection and treatment of AMD

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AMD control
Primary control
Sulphide removal difficult
Water exclusion difficult
Oxygen exclusion
Water cover
Soil (clay) cover
Synthetic membranes
Temperature control permafrost
pH control large amounts of alkali required, short term
Bacteriacides - reduces rate only, short term

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AMD control
Secondary control
Prevent water entering the waste pile
Surface water diversion
Isolation of ground water
Prevention of infiltration
Complex soil covers
Vegetation

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AMD control
Tertiary control
Collection and treatment
Active chemical treatment of AMD to remove metals
and acidity.
Expensive, but long term liability

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AMD control
Example Iron Duke Mine

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AMD control
Example Iron Duke Mine
Run of mine: 12,500 t/m
Grade: 30% sulfur
Size: >400 mm
Ore type: FeS2, FeS
Gangue: Chert (SiO2 + Mn)

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AMD control
Example Iron Duke Mine

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AMD control
Example Iron Duke Mine
AMD 180 m3/day of mine water with:
pH < 3
Dissolved heavy metals
High SO42- concentrations
Treated mine water is chemically unstable after
deposition
pH drops from ~7 to <3 within three days of deposition
Ground water contamination on the down gradient of
evaporation ponds
Surface water contamination of Yellow Jacket River

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AMD control

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AMD control
Example Iron Duke Mine
Chemical composition of mine water before and after
lime treatment

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AMD control
Tertiary control
Collection and treatment
Passive treatment: wetland mechanisms
formation and precipitation of metal hydroxides
formation of metal sulfides
organic complexation reactions
exchange with other cations on negatively-charged sites
direct uptake by living plants
neutralization by carbonates
attachment to substrate materials
adsorption and exchange of metals onto algal mats

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AMD control
Tertiary control
Collection and
treatment
Passive treatment:
Aerobic wetlands
(Michael J Walter 2006)

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AMD control
Tertiary control
Collection and
treatment
Passive treatment:
Anoxic limestone drains
(ALD) and limestone
ponds (Michael J
Walter 2006)

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AMD control
Tertiary control
Collection and treatment
Passive treatment: successive alkalinity producing
systems (SAPS) (Michael J Walter 2006)
Downward flow, through organic to remove oxygen then alkaline to a aerobic cell to
ppt metals

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AMD control
Toleration no action
Uncommon and are restricted
For underground mines, only if no potential fro
adverse impacts on the environment
Most Western Australian Goldfields mines are in this
category
Drainage from these mines does not reach the surface
The groundwater are naturally highly saline, not potable
even for wildlife

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Conclusion
Risk management approach must be used
where there is a high risk of significant impact
Subsequent high cost remediation strategies
can be reduced by building prevention
measures into EMS during mine planning and
development
Best practice involves implementation of a
range of site-specific measures based on local
conditions and available resources to minimise
risk

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Video clips
Acid Mine Drainage Debate Part 1
Acid Mine Drainage Debate Part 2

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