environmental impacts of metal ore mining and processing a review pdf

Environmental impacts of metal ore mining and processing a review pdf

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1st Edition

How can metal mining impact the environment?

How can metal mining impact the environment?

Journal of Health and Pollution 1 March ; 8 17 : 43—

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Environmental impacts of mining can occur at local, regional, and global scales through direct and indirect mining practices. Impacts can result in erosion , sinkholes , loss of biodiversity , or the contamination of soil , groundwater , and surface water by the chemicals emitted from mining processes.

These processes also have an impact on the atmosphere from the emissions of carbon which have effect on the quality of human health and biodiversity. Erosion of exposed hillsides, mine dumps, tailings dams and resultant siltation of drainages, creeks and rivers can significantly impact the surrounding areas, a prime example being the giant Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea.

A sinkhole at or near a mine site is typically caused from the failure of a mine roof from the extraction of resources, weak overburden or geological discontinuities. These cavities in the overburden have the potential to eventually cave in, forming a sinkhole at the surface. The sudden failure of earth creates a large depression at the surface without warning, this can be seriously hazardous to life and property.

Back-filling and grouting can be done to stabilize abandoned underground workings. Mining can have harmful effects on surrounding surface and groundwater. If proper precautions are not taken, unnaturally high concentrations of chemicals, such as arsenic , sulfuric acid , and mercury over a significant area of surface or subsurface water. As mining produces copious amounts of waste water, disposal methods are limited due to contaminates within the waste water.

Runoff containing these chemicals can lead to the devastation of the surrounding vegetation. The dumping of the runoff in surface waters or in a lot of forests is the worst option. Therefore, submarine tailings disposal are regarded as a better option if the waste is pumped to great depth.

The contamination of watersheds resulting from the leakage of chemicals also has an effect on the health of the local population. In well-regulated mines, hydrologists and geologists take careful measurements of water to take precaution to exclude any type of water contamination that could be caused by the mine's operations. The minimization of environmental degradation is enforced in American mining practices by federal and state law, by restricting operators to meet standards for the protection of surface and groundwater from contamination.

Sub-surface mining often progresses below the water table, so water must be constantly pumped out of the mine in order to prevent flooding. When a mine is abandoned, the pumping ceases, and water floods the mine. This introduction of water is the initial step in most acid rock drainage situations.

Acid rock drainage occurs naturally within some environments as part of the rock weathering process but is exacerbated by large-scale earth disturbances characteristic of mining and other large construction activities, usually within rocks containing an abundance of sulfide minerals. Areas where the earth has been disturbed e. In many localities, the liquid that drains from coal stocks, coal handling facilities, coal washeries, and coal waste tips can be highly acidic, and in such cases it is treated as acid mine drainage AMD.

The same type of chemical reactions and processes may occur through the disturbance of acid sulfate soils formed under coastal or estuarine conditions after the last major sea level rise, and constitutes a similar environmental hazard.

The five principal technologies used to monitor and control water flow at mine sites are diversion systems, containment ponds, groundwater pumping systems, subsurface drainage systems, and subsurface barriers. In the case of AMD, contaminated water is generally pumped to a treatment facility that neutralizes the contaminants.

Dissolution and transport of metals and heavy metals by run-off and ground water is another example of environmental problems with mining, such as the Britannia Mine , a former copper mine near Vancouver, British Columbia. Tar Creek , an abandoned mining area in Picher, Oklahoma that is now an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site, also suffers from heavy metal contamination.

Water in the mine containing dissolved heavy metals such as lead and cadmium leaked into local groundwater, contaminating it. Environmental changes such as global warming and increased mining activity may increase the content of heavy metals in the stream sediments. The implantation of a mine is a major habitat modification, and smaller perturbations occur on a larger scale than exploitation site, mine-waste residuals contamination of the environment for example.

Adverse effects can be observed long after the end of the mine activity. Habitat modification such as pH and temperature modification disturb communities in the surrounding area.

Endemic species are especially sensitive, since they require very specific environmental conditions. Destruction or slight modification of their habitat put them at the risk of extinction. Habitats can be damaged when there is not enough terrestrial product as well as by non-chemical products, such as large rocks from the mines that are discarded in the surrounding landscape with no concern for impacts on natural habitat.

Concentrations of heavy metals are known to decrease with distance from the mine, [17] and effects on biodiversity tend to follow the same pattern. Impacts can vary greatly depending on mobility and bioavailability of the contaminant : less-mobile molecules will stay inert in the environment while highly mobile molecules will easily move into another compartment or be taken up by organisms.

For example, speciation of metals in sediments could modify their bioavailability, and thus their toxicity for aquatic organisms. Biomagnification plays an important role in polluted habitats: mining impacts on biodiversity, assuming that concentration levels are not high enough to directly kill exposed organisms, should be greater to the species on top of the food chain because of this phenomenon. Adverse mining effects on biodiversity depend a great extent on the nature of the contaminant, the level of concentration at which it can be found in the environment, and the nature of the ecosystem itself.

Some species are quite resistant to anthropogenic disturbances, while some others will completely disappear from the contaminated zone. Time alone does not seem to allow the habitat to recover completely from the contamination. The mining industry can impact aquatic biodiversity through different ways. One way can be direct poisoning; [24] [25] a higher risk for this occurs when contaminants are mobile in the sediment [24] or bioavailable in the water.

Mine drainage can modify water pH, [26] making it hard to differentiate direct impact on organisms from impacts caused by pH changes. Effects can nonetheless be observed and proven to be caused by pH modifications. Factors that impact communities in acid mine drainage sites vary temporarily and seasonally: temperature, rainfall, pH, salinisation and metal quantity all display variations on the long term, and can heavily affect communities.

Changes in pH or temperature can affect metal solubility, and thereby the bioavailable quantity that directly impact organisms. Moreover, contamination persists over time: ninety years after a pyrite mine closure, water pH was still very low and microorganisms populations consisted mainly of acidophil bacteria.

One big case study that was considered extremely toxic to aquatic organisms was the contamination that occurred in Minamata Bay. Algae communities are less diverse in acidic water containing high zinc concentration, [25] and mine drainage stress decrease their primary production.

Diatoms ' community is greatly modified by any chemical change, [30] pH phytoplankton assemblage, [31] and high metal concentration diminishes the abundance of planktonic species. Water insect and crustacean communities are modified around a mine, [33] resulting in a low trophic completeness and their community being dominated by predators. However, biodiversity of macroinvertebrates can remain high, if sensitive species are replaced with tolerant ones.

Fish can also be affected by pH, [35] temperature variations, and chemical concentrations. Soil texture and water content can be greatly modified in disturbed sites, [23] leading to plants community changes in the area.

Most of the plants have a low concentration tolerance for metals in the soil, but sensitivity differs among species. Grass diversity and total coverage is less affected by high contaminant concentration than forbs and shrubs. Some species are more resistant and will survive these levels, and some non-native species that can tolerate these concentrations in the soil, will migrate in the surrounding lands of the mine to occupy the ecological niche. Plants can be affected through direct poisoning, for example arsenic soil content reduces bryophyte diversity.

Cultivated crops might be a problem near mines. Most crops can grow on weakly contaminated sites, but yield is generally lower than it would have been in regular growing conditions. Plants also tend to accumulate heavy metals in their aerian organs, possibly leading to human intake through fruits and vegetables. Regular consumption of contaminated crops might lead to health problems caused by long-term metal exposure. Habitat destruction is one of the main issues of mining activity.

Huge areas of natural habitat are destroyed during mine construction and exploitation, forcing animals to leave the site. Animals can be poisoned directly by mine products and residuals. Bioaccumulation in the plants or the smaller organisms they eat can also lead to poisoning: horses, goats and sheep are exposed in certain areas to potentially toxic concentration of copper and lead in grass.

Ants have good judgement whether an area is habitual as they live directly in the soil and are thus sensitive to environmental disruptions. Microorganisms are extremely sensitive to environmental modification, such as modified pH, [24] temperature changes or chemical concentrations due to their size.

For example, the presence of arsenic and antimony in soils have led to diminution in total soil bacteria. Microorganisms have a wide variety of genes among their total population, so there is a greater chance of survival of the species due to the resistance or tolerance genes in that some colonies possess, [39] as long as modifications are not too extreme.

Nevertheless, survival in these conditions will imply a big loss of gene diversity, resulting in a reduced potential for adaptations to subsequent changes. Undeveloped soil in heavy metal contaminated areas could be a sign of reduced activity by soils microfauna and microflora, indicating a reduced number of individuals or diminished activity.

Arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi are especially sensitive to the presence of chemicals, and the soil is sometimes so disturbed that they are no longer able to associate with root plants. However, some fungi possess contaminant accumulation capacity and soil cleaning ability by changing the biodisponibility of pollutants, [36] this can protect plants from potential damages that could be caused by chemicals.

On the contrary, some microbes can deteriorate the environment: which can lead to elevated SO4 in the water and can also increase microbial production of hydrogen sulfide, a toxin for many aquatic plants and organisms.

Mining processes produce an excess of waste materials known as tailings. The materials that are left over after are a result of separating the valuable fraction from the uneconomic fraction of ore.

These large amounts of waste are a mixture of water, sand, clay, and residual bitumen. Tailings are commonly stored in tailings ponds made from naturally existing valleys or large engineered dams and dyke systems.

This allows for tailings deposits to settle, or for storage and water recycling. Tailings have great potential to damage the environment by releasing toxic metals by acid mine drainage or by damaging aquatic wildlife; [41] these both require constant monitoring and treatment of water passing through the dam. However, the greatest danger of tailings ponds is dam failure. Tailings ponds are typically formed by locally derived fills soil, coarse waste, or overburden from mining operations and tailings and the dam walls are often built up on to sustain greater amounts of tailings.

A spoil tip is a pile of accumulated overburden that was removed from a mine site during the extraction of coal or ore. These waste materials are composed of ordinary soil and rocks, with the potential to be contaminated with chemical waster. Spoil is much different from tailings, as it is processed material that remains after the valuable components have been extracted from ore. As spoil is mainly composed of carbonaceous material that is highly combustible, it can be accidentally ignited by the lighting fire or the tipping of hot ashes.

Humans are also affected by mining. There are many diseases that can come from the pollutants that are released into the air and water during the mining process. For example, during smelting operations large quantities of air pollutants, such as the suspended particulate matter, SO x , arsenic particles and cadmium, are emitted.

Metals are usually emitted into the air as particulates as well. There are also many occupational health hazards that miners face. Most of miners suffer from various respiratory and skin diseases such as asbestosis , silicosis , or black lung disease. Furthermore, one of the biggest subset of mining that impacts humans is the pollutants that end up in the water, which results in poor water quality. Lithium does not occur as the metal naturally since it is highly reactive, but is found combined in small amounts in rocks, soils, and bodies of water.

Phosphate-bearing rocks are mined to produce phosphorus, an essential element used in industry and agriculture.

1st Edition

Iron Ore: Mineralogy, Processing and Environmental Issues summarizes recent, key research on the characterization of iron ores, including important topics such as beneficiation separation and refining , agglomeration e. The text is an ideal reference on the topic during a time when iron ore production has increased significantly, driven by increasing demand from countries such as India and China. Dr Liming Lu is currently a Senior Principal Scientist leading CSIRO research and development in iron ore agglomeration and high temperature behaviour of resultant agglomerates during the blast furnace and other alternative ironmaking processes. Liming has more than 28 years R and D experience in the characterisation, processing and evaluation of iron ores, metallurgical coals and molten alloys. He has published 10 book chapters and more than papers including 6 invited review. We are always looking for ways to improve customer experience on Elsevier. We would like to ask you for a moment of your time to fill in a short questionnaire, at the end of your visit.

Material adapted from: Hudson, T. L, Fox, F. Metal Mining and the Environment , p. Modern mining operations actively strive to mitigate potential environmental consequences of extracting metals, and such operations are strictly regulated in the United States. The key to effective mitigation lies in implementing scientific and technological advances that prevent or control undesired environmental impacts. Operations and waste products associated with metal extraction and processing are the principal causes of environmental concerns about metal mining. Concerns include:.

Most of the mineral resources that we use in our daily lives are not easily found and do not come out of the ground in a useable form. Finding these resources, obtaining mining them, and processing them into something useable takes many varied and often technologically advanced steps. For this unit, we will focus on mining, particularly the mining of metal ores in the United States. An ore is a material that occurs naturally and that contains a mineral or minerals that can be extracted for a profit. Estimates of the amounts of elements in the Earth's crust represent averages over the entire crust and seldom reflect the composition at a particular location. Mining is actually a very expensive process, so mining companies invest time and money to make sure they have picked a good location. In the exploration part of the process, there are usually multiple locations explored, and it may take a number of years to determine which sites are viable.

How can metal mining impact the environment?

Not a MyNAP member yet? Register for a free account to start saving and receiving special member only perks. The life cycle of mining begins with exploration, continues through production, and ends with closure and postmining land use. New technologies can benefit the mining industry and consumers in all stages of this life cycle.

Metrics details. Mining activities, including prospecting, exploration, construction, operation, maintenance, expansion, abandonment, decommissioning and repurposing of a mine can impact social and environmental systems in a range of positive and negative, and direct and indirect ways. Mining can yield a range of benefits to societies, but it may also cause conflict, not least in relation to above-ground and sub-surface land use. Similarly, mining can alter environments, but remediation and mitigation can restore systems.

How can metal mining impact the environment?

Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the Earth, usually from an ore body, lode , vein , seam , reef or placer deposit. These deposits form a mineralized commodity that is of economic interest to the miner. Ores recovered by mining include metals , coal , oil shale , gemstones , limestone , chalk , dimension stone , rock salt , potash , gravel , and clay. Mining is required to obtain any material that cannot be grown through agricultural processes, or feasibly created artificially in a laboratory or factory. Mining in a wider sense includes extraction of any non-renewable resource such as petroleum, natural gas, or even water. Modern mining processes involve prospecting for ore bodies, analysis of the profit potential of a proposed mine, extraction of the desired materials, and final reclamation of the land after the mine is closed. Mining operations usually create a negative environmental impact, both during the mining activity and after the mine has closed.

Mining is widely regarded as having adverse effects on environment of both magnitude and diversity. Some of these effects include erosion, formation of sinkhole, biodiversity loss and contamination of groundwater by chemical from the mining process in general and open-pit mining in particular. As such, a repeatable process to evaluate these effects primarily aims to diminish them.

How can metal mining impact the environment?

1st Edition

How they arise and how their effects can be mitigated Overview Unregulated mining has the potential to release harmful substances into the soil, air, and water. Mission proposes that governments enforce regulations on companies and use cutting-edge technology to reduce the damage from mining-related sources. As more mines open in countries with varying levels of environmental protection, it is increasingly vital that safeguards established by the Strategic Minerals Association SMA are in place before operations proceed see the international regulation page. Open pit mining, where material is excavated from an open pit, is one of the most common forms of mining for strategic minerals. This type of mining is particularly damaging to the environment because strategic minerals are often only available in small concentrations, which increases the amount of ore needed to be mined. Environmental hazards are present during every step of the open-pit mining process.

Lead processing and smelting plants work with both primary and secondary lead. Primary lead is mined, separated from ore, and refined into various products, whereas secondary lead is recovered from used objects — such as used lead-acid batteries — for reuse in other products. Smelting is a key process in lead product production, and involves heating lead ore or recovered lead with chemical reducing agents. Both secondary and primary smelting processes can be responsible for releasing large amounts of lead contamination into the surrounding environment. Populations estimates are preliminary and based on an ongoing global assessment of known polluted sites. Lead processing either requires the mining of new, primary lead, or the recycling of used products and scrap metals.

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Environmental impacts of mining can occur at local, regional, and global scales through direct and indirect mining practices.


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