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Acid mine drainage from inactive eastern coal operations


The most widely used technique for abatement of acid drainage from inactive surface mines and refuse disposal areas is revegetation of a soil cover applied to the waste material. Nonetheless, acid production often persists and in some cases, limits establishment of vegetation. This paper reports on several field studies intended to determine the location of pyrite oxidation zones and migration pathways of oxidation products at inactive spoil and refuse sites.

Oxygen required for pyrite oxidation is believed to he provided in the gaseous state from the atmosphere. Therefore, the oxygen concentration in unsaturated mine waste should provide an estimate of the weathering tendency in the local environment. We are currently monitoring gas composition in refuse and spoil at six sites. Barren refuse appeared to be oxygenated (>2% 02) in a shallow zone extending less than 1 metre below the surface during most of the year. Preliminary data from coal spoil showed that oxygen can be available throughout the unsaturated thickness, even at a revegetated site. Gas composition varied vertically and laterally at a single site and also appeared to show seasonal dependence.

Hydrologic factors are also important in acid production and transport. Discharge monitoring alone does not adequately describe the mass transport of acid products through the spoil. For example, at one reclaimed mine the mean sulfate content in six monitoring wells ranged from 24% to 240% of the mean concentration at the discharge point. Sources of recharge and relative flow rates determine the contribution of a particular zone to overall discharge quality.

These basic studies of acid production and transport indicate some shortcomings of standard reclamation practices at certain sites. This information will he used to develop alternative abatement technology designed to mitigate acid production at the source.

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Erickson, P.M., Ladwig, K.J. & Kleinmann, R.L.P. Acid mine drainage from inactive eastern coal operations. Environ Geochem Health 7, 16 (1985).

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  • Pyrite
  • Acid Production
  • Coal Mine
  • Acid Mine Drainage
  • Pyrite Oxidation