Information and Technology Report 1999-0001



Cyanide poisoning of birds is caused by exposure to cyanide in two forms: inorganic salts and hydrogen cyanide gas (HCN). Two sources of cyanide have been associated with bird mortalities: gold and silver mines that use cyanide in the extraction process and a predator control device called the M-44 sodium cyanide ejector, which uses cyanide as the toxic agent.

Most of the cyanide mortality documented in birds is a result of exposure to cyanide used in heap leach and carbonin-pulp mill gold or silver mining processes. At these mines, the animals are exposed when they ingest water that contains cyanide salts used in mining processes or, possibly, when they inhale HCN gas. In heap leach mining operations, the ore is placed on an impermeable pad over which a cyanide solution is sprayed or dripped. The cyanide solution dissolves and attaches to or “leaches out” the gold. The cyanide and gold solution is then drained to a plastic-lined pond, which is commonly called the pregnant pond. The gold is extracted, and the remaining solution is moved into another lined pond, which is commonly called the barren pond. The cyanide concentration in this pond is increased so that the solution is again suitable for use in the leaching process, and the solution is used again on the ore heap (Fig. 46.1). Bird use of the HCN-contaminated water in the ponds (Fig. 46.2) or contaminated water on or at the base of the heap leach pads (Fig. 46.3) can result in mortality.

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Title Cyanide
Series title Information and Technology Report
Series number 1999-0001
Year Published 1999
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) National Wildlife Health Center
Description 5 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Larger Work Title Field manual of wildlife diseases: General field procedures and diseases of birds
First page 341
Last page 345
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