Baseline and premining geochemical characterization of mined sites

Applied Geochemistry



A rational goal for environmental restoration of new, active, or inactive mine sites would be ‘natural background’ or the environmental conditions that existed before any mining activities or other related anthropogenic activities. In a strictly technical sense, there is no such thing as natural background (or entirely non-anthropogenic) existing today because there is no part of the planet earth that has not had at least some chemical disturbance from anthropogenic activities. Hence, the terms ‘baseline’ and ‘pre-mining’ are preferred to describe these conditions. Baseline conditions are those that existed at the time of the characterization which could be pre-mining, during mining, or post-mining. Protocols for geochemically characterizing pre-mining conditions are not well-documented for sites already mined but there are two approaches that seem most direct and least ambiguous. One is characterization of analog sites along with judicious application of geochemical modeling. The other is reactive-transport modeling (based on careful synoptic sampling with tracer-injection) and subtracting inputs from known mining and mineral processing. Several examples of acidic drainage are described from around the world documenting the range of water compositions produced from pyrite oxidation in the absence of mining. These analog sites provide insight to the processes forming mineralized waters in areas untouched by mining. Natural analog water-chemistry data is compared with the higher metal concentrations, metal fluxes, and weathering rates found in mined areas in the few places where comparisons are possible. The differences are generally 1–3 orders of magnitude higher for acid mine drainage.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Baseline and premining geochemical characterization of mined sites
Series title Applied Geochemistry
DOI 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2014.12.010
Volume 57
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Central Branch
Description 18 p.
First page 17
Last page 34
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