Mine Water and the Environment

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 442–454 | Cite as

The Use of Mussel Shells in Upward-Flow Sulfate-Reducing Bioreactors Treating Acid Mine Drainage

  • Benjamin UsterEmail author
  • Aisling D. O’Sullivan
  • Su Young Ko
  • Alex Evans
  • James Pope
  • Dave Trumm
  • Brian Caruso
Technical Article


In this study, sulfate-reducing bioreactors (SRBRs) efficiently treated acid mine drainage (AMD) for a contiguous period of 5 months. The AMD was sourced from an active coal mine on the South Island of New Zealand and typically had a pH < 3, 1,700 mg/L of sulfate, 50 mg/L of Fe, 18 mg/L of Al, 15 mg/L of Mn, 4 mg/L of Zn, and lower concentrations of other contaminants. Two alkalinity-generating materials (mussel shells and limestone) and two hydraulic retention times (HRTs) of 3 and 10 days were evaluated. Influent and effluent water quality parameters were monitored weekly. Each SRBR system successfully increased the pH (≥6) and the alkalinity (≤350 mg/L CaCO3) of the water while removing substantial amounts of dissolved metals at both HRTs (≥90 % Al, ≥86 % Fe, ≥87 % Cu, ≥99 % Zn). Mn removal was lower and ranged from 19 to 55 %. Increasing the HRT from 3 to 10 days significantly improved effluent water quality in terms of pH, alkalinity, and metals and sulfate removal. SRBRs using mussel shells in their reactive mixtures were more effective than those using limestone, with a higher (60–113 %) alkalinity generation and a better (3–5 %) metal removal. This study showed that mussel shells are an inexpensive and sustainable alternative to mined limestone for AMD passive treatment, and that better treatment efficiency resulted from a longer HRT.


Mine water Passive treatment Organic substrate Alkalinity generation Metal removal rates 

Nutzung von Muschelschalen in aufwärts durchflossenen sulfatreduzierenden Bioreaktoren zur Behandlung saurer Grubenwässer


In der Studie behandelten sulfatreduzierende Bioreaktoren (SRBRs) effizient saure Grubenwässer (AMD) für 5 Monate. Das Grubenwasser stammte von einem aktiven Kohlebergwerk auf der Südinsel von Neuseeland. Es hatte in der Regel einen pH < 3 und enthielt 1700 mg/L Sulfat, 50 mg/L Fe, 18 mg/L Al, 15 mg/L Mn, 4 mg/L Zn sowie kleinere Konzentrationen weiterer Kontaminanten. Zwei Alkalinität liefernde Materialien (Muschelschalen und Kalkstein) und zwei hydraulische Aufenthaltszeiten (HRTs) von 3 und 10 Tagen wurden getestet. Wasserqualitätsparameter wurden im Zu- und Ablauf wöchentlich bestimmt. Jedes SRBR-System erhöhte erfolgreich den pH (≥6) und die Alkalinität (≤350 mg/L CaCO3) des Wassers. Bei beiden HRTs wurden Metalle weitgehend aus dem Wasser entfernt (≥90% Al, ≥86% Fe, ≥87% Cu, ≥99% Zn). Die Manganentfernung war geringer (19 to 55 %). Die Erhöhung der HRT von 3 auf 10 Tage erhöhte signifikant die Ablaufwasserqualität hinsichtlich pH, Alkalinität sowie Metall- und Sulfatentfernung. SRBRs mit Muschelschalen waren mit höherer Alkalinitätsproduktion (60-113 %) und besserer Metallentfernung (3-5 %) effektiver als SRBRs mit Kalkstein. Die Studie zeigte, dass Muschelschalen für die passive Behandlung saurer Grubenwässer preiswerte und nachhaltige Alternativen zu bergbaulich gewonnenem Kalkstein sind und dass längere HRT eine bessere Behandlungseffizienz bewirkte.

El uso de conchas de mejillones en biorreactores reductores de sulfato de flujo ascendente para el tratamiento de drenjaes ácidos de mina


En este estudio, biorreactores reducidores de sulfato (SRBRs) permitieron el tratamiento eficiente de drenajes ácidos de minas (AMD) durante un período continuo de 5 meses. El AMD provenía de una mina activa de carbón en South Island de New Zealand y presentaba un pH < 3, 1700 mg/L de sulfato, 50 mg/L de Fe, 18 mg/L de Al, 15 mg/L de Mn, 4 mg/L de Zn y concentraciones menores de otros contaminantes. Se evaluaron dos materiales generadores de alcalinidad (conchas de mejillones y caliza) y dos tiempos de retención hidráulica (HRTs) de 3 y 10 días. Los parámetros de calidad del agua en el influente y en el efluente fueron controlados semanalmente. Cada SRBR incrementó exitosamente el pH (≥6) y la alcalinidad (≤350 mg/L CaCO3) del agua además de remover significativas cantidades de los metales disueltos a ambos HRTs (≥90% Al, ≥86% Fe, ≥87% Cu, ≥99% Zn). La remoción de Mn fue menor (entre 19 y 55%.) El incremento de HRT desde 3 a 10 días mejoró significativamente la calidad del agua del efluente en términos de pH, alcalinidad y la remoción de metales y sulfatos. Los SRBR que usaban conchas de mejillones en sus mezclas reactivos fueron más eficientes que aquellos que utilizaban caliza, con una mayor (60 a 113%) generación de alcalinidad y una mayor remoción de metales (3 a 5%). Este estudio mostró que las conchas de mejillones son una alternativa barata y sustentable para aportar caliza para el tratamiento pasivo de AMD y que una mayor eficiencia en el tratamiento resultó en un HRT más largo.



本研究利用硫酸盐还原生物反应器持续处理酸性矿山废水(AMD)5个月。酸性矿山废水取自新西兰南岛的某生产煤矿,水化学特征为:pH<3,硫酸盐、铁、铝、锰和锌的浓度分别为1700mg/L、50mg/L、18mg/L、15mg/L和4mg/L,以及浓度相对较低的其它污染物。用两种产碱材料(贝壳和石灰)进行了水力持续试验时间为3天和10天的试验。每周监测SRBR系统入流液和出流液水质参数。每个SRBR系统成功地提高了系统入流液pH值(大于6)和碱度(≤350 mg/L CaCO3),可溶解铝、铁、铜和锌去除率分别达≥90%、 ≥86% 、≥87% 和≥99%。锰的去除率较低,在19~55%之间。延长的水动力持续时间从3天至10天显著提高了处理后出流液的pH值、碱度和金属与硫酸盐去除率。对于SRBR系统,贝壳要比石灰提高碱生成率60-113%,提高金属去除率3-5%。研究证明,贝壳是一种处理酸性废水(AMD)材料石灰的经济、有效替代物,较长的水动力持续时间可显著提高其处理效率。



This research was funded by CRL Energy Ltd, the Dept of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering at the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), and the University of Lausanne (Switzerland). Technical and logistical support was provided by various university technicians including Peter McGuigan, David McPherson, Robert Stainthorpe, and Matt Cockcroft. Francis Mining Company Ltd kindly granted access to the Echo Mine site for AMD collection. Aaron Dutton from CRL Energy Ltd helped during AMD collection. Solid Energy New Zealand donated the mussel shells.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin Uster
    • 1
    Email author
  • Aisling D. O’Sullivan
    • 1
  • Su Young Ko
    • 1
  • Alex Evans
    • 1
  • James Pope
    • 2
  • Dave Trumm
    • 2
  • Brian Caruso
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Civil and Natural Resources EngineeringUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.CRL Energy LtdChristchurchNew Zealand

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