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    Read the following reviews on
    Environmental Aspects of Mine Wastes
    Short-Course Volume 31 published in

    1. Economic Geology, 2003, v. 98, by Max S. Gustin
    2. The Gangue, January 2004, No. 80, by Tom A. Al

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    Reprinted with permission of
    Economic Geology, v.98:6, p. 1253-1254, Gustin, M.S., 2003.

    Environmental Aspects of Mine Wastes. Short Course Series, Volume 31. J.L. JAMBOR, D.W. BLOWES, AND A.1.M, RITCHIE, EDS. 430 Pp. Mineralogical Association of Canada. 2003. Price US$50 outside Canada; CAN$50 in Canada; member price, US$40/CAN$40.

    Mine wastes are the bane of the mining industry. In order to extract a mineral resource, a mining company is faced with determining how to deal with the waste material with the mining process. As environmental awareness has increased, this task has become increasingly arduous. Waste rock and tailings often contain high concentrations of metals and minerals that may produce acidic waters, which facilitate the release of contaminants to aquatic ecosystems. Although acid mine or rock drainage (ARD) is a major environmental issue facing the mining industry, W.A. Price points out in the first chapter of this book that this is only one of a multitude of issues facing those who manage mine wastes.

    This volume is the result of a short course convened to assess the progress and new developments in the study of the environmental aspects of mine waste in the time since a similar short course was held almost a decade ago. The papers summarize the progress on understanding the geochemical processes that control the chemistry of the releases from mine waste, the methods applied for treatment of mine waste, and "real life" examples of environmental releases, management, and remediation. The well-written and carefully edited papers that make up this volume will be of value to any engineer, geologist, hydrologist, environmental scientist, and educator involved with opening, closing, and remediation of abandoned and active mine sites.

    Preventing impact from mine waste materials is costly and some understanding of how to predict and mitigate impacts can help in initial resource evaluation, development, and mine closure. Improper actions can result in accrual of even greater costs; therefore, educated planning for dealing with wastes is the best management strategy. The 20 papers included in this symposium volume provide a foundation for making informed management decisions. As pointed out in the Preface, one of the major difficulties in assessing the environmental impacts of mine waste is that geochemical processes evolve over time. Therefore it is important that we can predict, using geochemical modeling and temporal field data, what those changes will be over time, given the environmental conditions. As temporal monitoring of releases continues and our database on the geochemistry of mine waste increases, our ability to implement sound remediation strategies will increase. This is demonstrated by the Rum Jungle uranium mine (northern Australia) story, described in this volume, and based on 30 years of data.

    The first paper, by R.A. Price, nicely summarizes the challenges posed by metal leaching and ARD associated with mine wastes, and the approaches applied to address them. He points out that once the conditions conducive to ARD have been established, they are difficult to stop. We must, therefore, develop the tools to prevent ARD from initiating. He highlights the fact that if measures are to be implemented, they need to be designed so that they are operated and financed indefinitely. This may be difficult because there is little long-term operating experience in reducing releases.

    The paper by Seal and Hammarstrom, which discusses geoenvironmental models, provides a great example of the type of mindset that is needed for an approach to mitigating environmental issues associated with specific types of ore deposits. This forward-looking paper demonstrates that the use of a geologic framework will facilitate implementing sound management practices to reduce environmental impacts. Development of a good geoenvironmental model based on already well-developed ore deposit models will provide a framework for responsible development, mining, processing, and closure.

    Four papers address water and gas-driven transport processes within mine waste, and the geochemical" factors controlling the chemistry of the fluids being released from mine waste. Fluid and gas influx, as well as flow within waste piles, can be very difficult to characterize. The papers by Smith and Beckie, and by Ritchie, discuss the significance and the means of monitoring and reducing these flows. The chapter by Jambor provides a discussion of the changing mineralogy and chemistry of mine waste as it interacts with water and air over time-sort of a Bowen's Reaction series for the environmental geochemist. Jambor points out how we need to look beyond the acid-generating capacity of the waste to the neutralizing capacity, and the reactions associated with the gangue minerals. Four papers discuss laboratory tests that have been applied to characterize mine wastes and the limitations of these tests. One of the explicit needs is to develop test data for representative rock types so that there will be a database of information that may be applied to a variety of deposit types. Several chapters deal with the difficulties of characterizing the mineralogy of fine mine wastes and the importance of quantifying surface reactions within this material of high surface area. The chapters by Gould and Kapoor, and by Nordstrom, provide an educational discussion of how microbes may exacerbate and mitigate the environmental impacts of water released from mine waste.

    Four chapters focus on the geochemistry of ARD and how to characterize and model potential formation. Over the past 10 years, significant advances have been made in incorporating key processes into models. The chapter by Ptacek and Blowes discusses the limitations and advances made in the application of geochemical models to natural and contaminated systems. They conclude that deficiencies in databases and field measurements continue to be the shortcoming for using models that predict geochemical processes. They describe recent improvements to model inputs-specifically, components that address the high concentrations of dissolved solids often observed in effluent and prediction of phases being precipitated. The paper by Mayer et al. discusses advances in modeling dealing with unsaturated flow and gas transport, and the fact that computational capabilities have significantly increased. The paper by Seal discusses applying stable isotopes for interpreting physical, chemical, and biological processes for generating acid waters, and the need to integrate data for multiple isotopes.

    The last four chapters deal with methods of treatment and prevention of ARD, along with case studies. Treatment methods range from passive to development of permeable reactive boundaries to active treatment systems that will need to be maintained into perpetuity. These last chapters would give those assessing mine closure methods an awareness of the methods currently used, the successes and pitfalls, and most importantly, their longevity in protection of aquatic ecosystems. A detailed discussion by Ritchie and Bennett on remediation efforts at the Rum Jungle mine describes the implementation of a cover to reduce outputs of metals and ARD. The last chapter, by Alpers et al., summarizes the modeling results focused on development of a treatment system for the Iron Mountain massive sulfide deposits, a worst-case scenario in the generation of AMD.

    There is a wealth of information within the covers of this book that can be used to assess the scope of environmental issues for waste derived from the mining of any metal deposit Despite the fact that we still do not have all the necessary tools for long-term prediction of releases, and that there are few inexpensive long-term solutions to control contamination, this book demonstrates that much progress has been made in our understanding of the environmental aspects of mine wastes over the past 10 years. This book also provides an impetus for us to adapt standard, well-developed, and researched geologic models, such as ore deposit models and rock weathering sequences, to reduce the environmental impacts of metal resource extraction.

    RENO, NEVADA 89557

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    Mineralogical Association of Canada, Short Course Series, Volume 31, J.L. Jambor, D.W. Blowes and A.I.M. Ritchie (Editors)

    By Tom A. Al Dept. of Geology, University of New Brunswick P.O. Box 4400, Fredericton, NB E3B 5A3

    This volume documents progress in research that has been achieved in the past nine years since the first MAC Short Course on this subject, Environmental Geochemistry of Sulfide Mine-Wastes, was held in 1994. The secure disposal of reactive, sulfide-rich mine-waste materials at mines that are currently in operation continues to present challenges to mine operators and regulatory agencies. Currently, the restoration of older mine-waste sites where there was no previous planning to mitigate the effects of weathering reactions within the waste material is probably the most difficult problem related to mine-waste disposal.

    The MAC Short-Course Series Volume 31 includes papers that bring up to date most of the subject areas that were covered in the previous short course (Volume 22), as well as papers that address several aspects of the science related to mine-waste disposal that were not previously addressed. Papers in the former category include those on the subjects of gas transport and sulfide oxidation (A.I.M. Ritchie), tailings hydrogeology and geochemistry (D.W. Blowes et al.), microbiology (W.D. Gould and A. Kapoor, and D.K. Nordstrom), mineralogy (J.L. Jambor) and various methods of mine-waste remediation (K. Walton-Day; D.W. Blowes et al.; G.W. Wilson). These papers provide a current perspective on important subjects that remain central to the study of sulfide-rich mine wastes.

    The new volume has added subject areas that complement the content very well. There is a paper on geoenvironmental models for mineral deposits (R.R. Seal and J.M. Hammarstrom) which extends the longstanding practice by economic geologists of classifying mineral deposits by geologic, geochemical and genetic features of the deposits, to the classification of mineral deposits with respect to their environmental behavior. The idea is that a detailed understanding of the geologic, geochemical, geophysical, and engineering properties of the deposits, before and after mining, will improve the ability to predict environmental behavior such as the quality of liquid effluent draining from the mine waste. R.R. Seal contributes two papers to this volume. The second paper summarizes stable isotope sytematics for the oxygen, hydrogen, sulfur and C-N in cyanide systems. The paper introduces the basics of isotope geochemistry and then discusses the isotopic variations observed under conditions of sulfide oxidation, sulfate reduction, and various cyanide degradation processes.

    Waste rock piles are a particularly difficult problem for hydrologists and geochemists who seek to understand the water-rock interactions that occur in waste rock. The flow paths for water infiltrating the piles are poorly understood, and this leads to great difficulty in quantitative interpretations of the geochemical processes that occur within the piles. In a paper that addresses the hydrology and geochemistry of waste rock piles, L. Smith and R. Beckie have done a good job in outlining the hydrologic issues, and they have presented a lot of useful information on the investigational methods that may be used to collect relevant data in waste rock systems.

    There are two contributions that focus on methods of characterization of the secondary mineralogy in mine-waste materials. Rietveld analysis, described by M. Raudsepp and E. Pani, is a quantitative powder x-ray diffraction crystal-refinement and phase-analysis technique that is increasingly in use to investigate intimate mineral mixtures and the unit cell properties. They provide sound practical advice on powder x-ray diffraction in general, as well as a useful set of step-by step instructions for the novice. The second paper relating to mineralogical analysis is presented by C. Weisner on the broad subject of spectroscopic techniques for characterization of mine waste. This is a topical paper in the context of current low-temperature geochemical research and it gives a good introduction to a number of the available techniques including x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), analytical transmission-electron microscopy (ATEM), atomic-force and biological-force microscopy (AFM/BFM), time-of-flight secondary-ion mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS) and various x-ray spectroscopy and diffraction methods (e.g. XANES, EXAFS).

    The oxidation of sulfide minerals and generation of contaminated pore waters would receive less attention than is the case if there was no danger of contaminated water escaping from the waste containment impoundments and impacting the surrounding environment. In this context, the paper by Kimball et al. is an important contribution to the volume because it documents some of the extensive work that these authors have done on the hydrological and geochemical processes operating in stream systems that receive contaminated mine effluent. The paper discusses the use of field experiments and reactive-transport modeling in stream systems as tools to evaluate remediation alternatives. Reactive-transport modeling, the combination of hydrological flow and solute-transport simulation with simulations of geochemical reactions, has been an area of strong research interest and the paper by Kimball et al. is a good lead in to a paper by Mayer et al. that discusses the state-of-the-art in reactive-transport modeling in mine groundwater systems, including a summary of existing models and case studies. The subject of reactive transport modeling from sulfide oxidation in the unsaturated zone of mine waste, through transport of contaminants in the saturated zone and transport of contaminants released to stream systems in the surrounding environment, is well represented in these two papers.

    The 1994 Short Course (Volume 22) and the newest edition (Volume 31) represent a comprehensive coverage of research in the hydrological, geochemical, mineralogical and microbiological sciences as they relate to sulfide-rich mine wastes. The newest volume covers some of the more recent developments in the field and representatives from industry and the government regulatory communities, as well as academic researchers, will benefit from the broad coverage that is contained in this single volume.

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    © 2006 Mineralogical Association of CanadaLast update 2014-02-05