Every year, millions of pounds of ore are mined from the earth. Ore can contain a variety of valuable minerals, rare earth metals, and other substances that are essential for a modern technological society. However, mining waste can be very hazardous. Lots of mining waste contains very high levels of heavy metals, such as cadmium, lead, and much more. In addition, mine waste can contain arsenic and a variety of other toxins that can have a direct impact on human health. Fortunately, there are a number of effective ways to prevent the contamination of mining sites and the surrounding groundwater. The following guide provides simple tips and tricks on how to treat mining waste water.
After valuable metals and minerals have been extracted from mined ore, it’s important to make sure that they are stored in an area where they won’t pollute surrounding groundwater. Mining waste should be kept in a lined pit that prevents the seepage of water into the ground. As rainwater falls into a pit of mining waste, it filters through it. Dangerous heavy metals and toxins can leach into the water. If the water is able to escape the waste pit, it can be a severe hazard.
If you have a significant amount of waste water from mining operations, it’s important to make sure it’s kept far from any streams, rivers, or creeks. Under ideal conditions, a mining waste water reservoir should be built with a lined bottom. This reservoir should be very shallow with a large surface area. This allows water to evaporate from the top of the water’s surface. Since evaporated water can’t hold any toxins or heavy metals, it’s not an environmental hazard.
Over time, the remaining water in the reservoir will become highly concentrated with heavy metals and toxins. Eventually, it will become a thick sludge. This thick sludge can sometimes be salvaged for valuable mineral and metal content, but it can vary. Once this sludge has most of its water removed, it can be buried in a landfill. Some jurisdictions may require it to be stored in barrels or other watertight containers first. However, if you are far away from any groundwater, the requirement for this may be waived.
Most important of all, it’s critical to remember that mining waste water isn’t like other types of hazardous chemicals. While an oil spill may eventually biodegrade in nature, heavy metals are considered to be persistent pollutants. This means that they can potentially contaminate an area for hundreds or thousands of years. Because of this, care must be taken when treating and processing mining waste water.