Environmental Impacts of Mine Waste Sandfill
Description:The Underground Injection Control program was promulgated in 1981 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Placement of mine waste backfill underground is considered underground injection under the provisions of this program. A major issue is whether mine waste that is regulated as a contaminant source on the surface should be disposed of underground. The U.S. Bureau of Mines conducted research to investigate the impacts of mine waste sandfill on the quality of ground water. Analyses of water samples collected before and after contact with sandfill in a 10-year-old stope, as well as samples of the sandfill itself, were used to ascertain the influence of the sandfill after mine closure and subsequent flooding. Computer models supported the hypothesis that oxidation of pyrite by oxygen, accompanied by dissolution of carbonates, was the predominant reaction controlling the quality of the water being discharged from the stope. Concentrations of metals released as a result of acid production remained near or below detection limits. Metals release after mine flooding is expected to remain low as a result of the buffering by the sandfill and the reduced rate of oxidation.
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