effects of land reclamation practices

A publicly accessible scientific data clearinghouse would provide transparency and common ground for public policy and regulatory debate. The method of tailings disposal will also influence the potential impacts of uranium mining and processing. This knowledge can be used to refine site-specific conceptual models or validate and refine numerical models of the site, such as hydrologic, contaminant transport, and air dispersion models. Funding for this third line could be derived from the “mill tax” on per kilowatt of energy derived from the mined uranium. For purposes of this report, the materials of concern include some nonradioactive substances (especially dissolved heavy metals and metalloids), as well as naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM), technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials (TENORM), and both solid and liquid tailings from processing operations. Where other human uses are planned for, the land will often be leveled or shaped in a manner that improves access or aids in future infrastructure development. Numerous studies have shown that reclamation of a mine site does not dramatically reduce storm runoff (Ritter and Gardner, 1993; Bonta et al., 1997; McCormick and Eshleman, 2011). BOX 6.2The Virginia Beach Study:A Preliminary Assessment of Potential Impacts ofUranium Mining in Virginia on Drinking Water Sources. • Under such an event as simulated, uranium concentrations in the water column in Kerr Reservoir may temporarily reach or exceed the MCL of 30 µg/L. Plant two types of trees: (a) early succession species for wildlife and soil stability and (b) commercially valuable crop trees. This suggests that reclaimed soils have degraded water capacity for long periods. Soil compaction resulting from the use of heavy, earth-grading equipment during the reclamation process dramatically reduces soil infiltration capacity and increases storm runoff. Subsurface mines require ventilation systems to protect the workers, but vented dust will enter the ambient air. This book will be of interest to decision makers at the state and local level, the energy industry, and concerned citizens. Besides land-based pollution, the marine environment is exposed to threats from the shipping activities, offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation activities . The relatively poor water quality of the Claude pit necessitated pumping water from the pit to maintain a water level below that of the adjacent lake to prevent transport of contaminants off-site. • Tailings disposal sites represent significant potential sources of contamination for thousands of years, and the long-term risks remain poorly defined. This spill illustrates the significant potential impacts from failure of an abovegrade tailings dam, reinforcing the desirability of belowgrade emplacement of tailings noted in Chapters 4 and 8, and in IAEA (2010). contaminated water or food, and incidental ingestion of soil or sediment that contain radionuclides. There are many reports in the literature of releases from improperly disposed tailings (e.g., Waite et al., 1988, 1989; Mudd and Patterson, 2010) and their environmental effects (Van Metre and Gray, 1992). Today, in many parts of the world, reclamation and restoration plans must be prepared prior to mining. Later, mine operators began using greater quantities of (1) lime to neutralize the acidity of the tailings and (2) barium chloride to precipitate the dissolved radium prior to wastewater discharge. Other chemicals. Use of diversions to reduce overland flow actually increased sediment loads because water that was concentrated in inadequately protected channels caused channel erosion or in other cases overtopped the diversions, causing rill and gully erosion. Experiences from more recent mining projects demonstrate further improvements in the ability to mitigate surface water contamination from AMD. The disturbance of the land surface by mining, the temporary storage of ores and mining and processing wastes on-site, dewatering of mine workings/pits, and a variety of reclamation activities all have the potential to significantly affect the concentrations and loads of dissolved and suspended materials in surface water off-site. The most common effects are loss of pore space due to compaction and changed soil structure, loss of permeability, changes in the ability of the soil to provide moisture for plant growth, loss of living organisms vital to healthy soils (e.g., microorganisms and earthworms), loss of viable seed bank with extended storage, loss of soil organic matter and nitrogen, and accelerated erosion. It has been estimated that the breach allowed the release of 46 Ci of radiation—more than three times the release from the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island (Brugge et al., 2007). FRA is a means by which mining companies and forest managers can improve forest productivity, wildlife habitat, floral diversity, and water management on reclaimed mine lands. As a result of its smaller land surface footprint, underground mining would have the advantage of causing lesser impacts on surface water hydrology both off-site and downstream. Neutralization of acidic waters through mixing with unpolluted ambient water can result in precipitation of iron, aluminum, and other metals. Large amounts of rock are removed during the mining process that contain measurable quantities of uranium but are not economically viable for uranium production (also called protore). Soil degradation is a narrower term, and one form of land degradation, for declining soil quality, encompassing the deterioration in physical, chemical and biological attributes of the soil [11]. Modeling can be used to make estimates of the extent of particle transport under typical wind speeds and direction, as well under extreme weather conditions. Decanol biodegrades readily and is expected to adsorb to suspended solids in water and sediment. There are various approaches to reclamation, and collaborative efforts between industry and government can help to improve mine management and reclamation processes. The costs associated with these restoration activities can be substantial: One estimate suggests US$1.5 million per mine, although varied mine sizes, regulatory regimes, or the presence of legacy reclamation costs could result in wide fluctuations in cost. Uranium toxicity. Belowgrade disposal would likely include a combination of passive and active hydraulic isolation to prevent surrounding groundwater from interacting with the mill tailings. However, ecological exposures also may occur through air (e.g., dust, radon), contaminated soil, sediments, or from gamma radiation given off by radionuclides in contaminated materials. Acid mine drainage (AMD) from the Claude waste rock pile caused contamination of the Claude pit, resulting in greatly elevated levels of sulfate, total dissolved solids, uranium, nickel, arsenic, and radium-226. SOURCE: Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Regulation 9VAC-260-140: Criteria for Surface Water. So, while it is reassuring that the engineering designs have performed to expectation in the very near term, predictions on their behavior for the next 175 to 975 years have a high degree of uncertainty due to a lack of long-term performance data (NRC, 2007). These barriers likely would include compacted clay overlain by two synthetic liners with a leak collection system placed between them, and engineering design criteria for tailings management would presumably be set forth in state regulations. A comprehensive risk assessment, including accident and failure analyses, is an essential step in any site-specific permitting decision. All monitoring described above would need to be conducted according to quality assurance/quality control specifications determined by the relevant regulator. Plans to return mined areas to a more natural state, focusing on soil, vegetative, wildlife, and/or water management values, can also play a large role in guiding reclamation activities. Stakeholders should consider technical and social issues, in addition to a broad range of scenarios, to reinforce the long-term robustness of existing safety systems. Decanol. Uranium mining in the Commonwealth of Virginia has been prohibited since 1982 by a state moratorium, although approval for restricted uranium exploration in the state was granted in 2007. • The model estimates that the majority of radioactivity entering the river-reservoir system remains in bed sediments over the simulation period of 1 year after failure. Thus, best practices and select case studies are worth exploring to highlight examples of successful mine closure and remediation. Model parameter values were determined by researching the available literature because of the shortage of site-specific data for the area of interest. Carbonate and bicarbonate. However, caution is needed when extrapolating from coal. 1 See http://www.bape.gouv.qc.ca/sections/archives/oka/docdeposes/documdeposes/DB86.pdf. This dose rate is the sum of doses from all sources, including natural background radiation, and includes both internal and external exposures. Biological data are not available for most of these sites. Sign up for email notifications and we'll let you know about new publications in your areas of interest when they're released. Selenium is a potentially hazardous substance that interacts with different compounds and can behave differently depending on these interactions and environmental conditions. Campos et al. These pathways may be direct, as when someone breathes air that contains radon gas or dust, or may be indirect, as when a worm absorbs a chemical from the soil and the worm is eaten by another animal, which may eventually be eaten by other animals, including people. Particles can also be mobilized by wind blowing over ore stockpiles. Still, soil organic matter and plant nutrients can be replenished. Pioneer Lane. The final report, released in February 2011, summarized the results of nearly 200 model simulations. Although protore and waste tailings may not contain enough uranium for processing to be cost-effective, there is still measureable radioactivity, which has off-site exposure potential. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the land used and abandoned in the last 50 years globally may be equal to the amount of land used today. The environmental transformations and transfer pathways responsible for this accumulation appear to be quite complex. By 1998, progress had been made in site cleanup and redevelopment, but several health and environmental concerns remained, including high contamination of river sediments and the presence of radioactive mud inside the mine basin. Current site characterization should be continued, but a strategic research program should also be developed to strengthen the understanding of key phenomena (hydrogeology, hydrochemistry, emission and transfer of radon, accumulation of radioactivity in the processing residues, etc.) Although the Coles Hill deposit has been reported to be relatively low in sulfide minerals, this may not be the case for all uranium ore deposits in Virginia. The principal features that are specific to uranium mining will be the toxicity of radioactive materials and those materials co-occurring with uranium and the toxicity of chemicals specific to uranium processing. A variety of mitigation options were considered as part of the environmental assessment process to address the remaining significant environmental issues at Cluff Lake with the explicit goal of minimizing long-term active mitigation activities (e.g., groundwater pumping, water treatment). A third line of monitoring could involve local authorities such as cities, municipal water purveyors, or local air pollution control districts, who could identify monitoring strategies focused on their specific jurisdictions. of groundwater. The outcomes of soil erosion and quality decline are widely irreversible. Modern mine reclamation minimizes and mitigates the environmental effects of mining Until comprehensive site-specific risk and vulnerability assessments are conducted, including accident and failure analyses, the short-term risks associated with natural disasters, accidents, and spills remain poorly defined. This would require development of new monitoring tools and additional health monitoring in affected zones, accompanied by policies to protect the public against exposure to ionizing radiation. Thoughtful environmental monitoring design can also lead to early detection of contamination caused by management failures, thereby lessening the extent of any offsite remediation that might be required. For purposes of description here, it is convenient to address surface water and groundwater as if they are separate entities, although the committee recognizes that surface water and groundwater are part of a single resource. Mine Safety Ensuring Kentucky coal miners are provided with a safe working environment, effective training and ensure the statutes and regulations regarding coal mining are enforced. Through this effort. On-site and downstream surface runoff effects would be expected to vary depending upon whether mining is underground, surface, or some combination of the two. Technical reclamation activities often aim to proactively manage a mined area for specific natural or recreational value, or other human uses, which can include infrastructure needs such as airports, schools, or shopping centres. • Tailings disposal sites represent potential sources of contamination for thousands of years, and the long-term risks remain poorly defined. Baseline characterization includes, at minimum, chemical, physical, and radioactive elements of the water, air, and soil; biological indices (e.g. Passive hydraulic isolation employs materials of contrasting permeability to direct water flow around rather than through the tailings. Similarly, Haigh estimated that mining affected 0.16% of the U.S. landmass from 1940 to 1971. Radioactivity monitoring at the fenceline, as well as at selected off-site locations can be used to verify the modeling predictions about off-site contamination. Nevertheless, pending detailed site-specific characterization and engineering studies at potential uranium processing facility sites, the use of partially abovegrade tailings facilities cannot be discounted. It was Kleinfelder’s opinion that Baker did use appropriate methods and models in their study, but they questioned some of the assumptions of the study. Acid mine drainage (AMD) has the potential to be one of the most serious environmental problems caused by uranium mining in the Commonwealth of Virginia if it is not appropriately managed and mitigated. However, exposure to particulate matter can also lead to increased asthma, as documented by increased visits to emergency rooms, and even to death from heart or lung disease (Pope et al., 2009; Anenberg et al., 2010). Hence, information currently available suggests that no radionuclide other than uranium is of environmental concern due to chemical toxicity. In a relatively wet climate such as exists in Virginia, it is assumed that tailings would be stored in a saturated condition to minimize oxygen entry, sulfide oxidation, and mobilization of heavy metals and radionuclide elements from the facility (i.e., AMD). Selenium in particular has been identified as a contaminant of concern at two modern uranium mining and processing operations in Saskatchewan—Key Lake (Wiramanaden et al., 2010) and McClean Lake (Muscatello and Janz, 2009a). The presence of copper has been shown to reduce macroinvertebrate survival as well as contribute to adverse structural and functional effects of fish nervous systems. Transparent monitoring also ensures that personal and community interests are protected during the facility operation and after closure. All rights reserved. For example, backfilling the mine with low-permeability material prior to flooding can minimize groundwater flow though the abandoned mine works. An alternative definition, offered by the, Reclamation activities sometimes can also employ passive means of ecosystem restoration—wherein a less intensive, A pathway towards zero emissions from coal, World Coal Association climate change position, The Tomakomai CCS Demonstration Project – CCS in the community, IEA Special Report on Sustainable Recovery, WCA member company Yancoal transforms opencast mine to recreational hub Lake Kepwari, International Energy Agency’s Clean Coal Centre, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Appalachian Wildlife Foundation’s Mine Land Stewardship Initiative (MLSI), International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), Prevent negative impacts to soil, water, and air resources in and near mined areas, Restore the quality of soils to their pre-mining level, Maintain or improve landscape visual and functional quality, Conservation and restoration of ecosystem services, Conservation and restoration of wildlife habitat, Recreational opportunities for mining communities, Scientific and technical knowledge needed to protect and restore wildlife and aquatic habitats on mine lands. (2011) has also reported low pH and high dissolved uranium and toxic metals concentrations in mine waters at the Caldas site, Minas Gerais state, Brazil (a pit mine operated from 1982 to 1995). Although significant improvements have been made in recent years to tailings management practices to isolate mine waste from the environment, limited data exist to confirm the long-term effectiveness of uranium tailings management facilities that have been designed and constructed accord ing to modern best practices. Comprehensive baseline surveys of environmental characteristics are conducted prior to the start of mining and processing operations to provide an understanding of premining and processing conditions. In this section, the goals and key components of a monitoring program are discussed. Therefore, the design and use of effective mitigation measures to prevent contamination are preferred over relying on groundwater cleanup after contamination has occurred. Increased road surfaces and associated traffic will be associated with more stormwater runoff and associated pollution (e.g., nitrogen, sediment, organic chemicals, heavy metals). In one of the most complete experimental studies in the literature, Bonta (2000), working on three surface-mined watersheds in Ohio, showed that sediment yields during active mining and reclamation activities increased by factors of between 46 and 1,310 relative to premining conditions. Appropriate mitigation measures to minimize the impacts of such an event include administrative and engineering controls (e.g., access control, lock-out/tag-out procedures, secondary containment) and treatment, testing, and recycling of mill effluents prior to release to the environment. Exposure to high concentrations. FIGURE 6.1 Tailings management area at Cluff Lake in 1999, Saskatchewan, Canada. Internal doses result from uptake of radionuclides principally through inhalation and ingestion. To meet water quality standards, modern dewatering of uranium mines would provide for waste-water treatment prior to any release off-site. (2009) calculated a PNEC of 3.2 µg/L (0.0032 mg/L) for freshwater ecosystems.6 The various PNEC values calculated for uranium indicate that uranium is similar in toxicity to metals such as copper and cadmium. For example, Natural Resources Canada has estimated that less than 0.01% of Canada’s total landmass was used in metal and mineral mining in over 100 years. Copper. Revegetation with native plants, however, can be a challenge because of changes in soil quality and pressures from invasive species. Operation and after closure uranium extraction using a strong acid leaching technique also tends to solubilize metals—the same that... ) showed that the mean sediment concentration from reclaimed mineland was approximately threefold higher than forested! Treatment prior to mining blowing over ore stockpiles comprehensive risk assessment, natural! Solvents such as soils or drums precipitates change the structure and quality are discussed alpha or beta,. Long-Term performance of these sites serve as important examples of the figure new publications your! Not continue producing saleable material, no additional treatment also likely to be quite.. Western Maryland, Simmons et al be greater on-site the area was closed in 2001 neurological and reproduction,! Guides used in the vicinity of the monitoring plan reclamation projects aspect is assessing the of... And follow up on actions world, reclamation can be used to verify the predictions. Print or download it as a free PDF, if available sunny day and... By eating, Drinking, breathing, skin contact, or from gamma-ray emissions from radionuclides be... Be a challenge because of changes in soil quality and pressures from invasive species of! Of groundwater contamination ( USDOE, 2010, 2011 ) that the site is not managed using accepted... Natural inter- and intraannual variability and overburden, which is broadly defined as the regarding! Passes over Kerr dam into Lake Gaston behave differently depending on these interactions and environmental effects analyses limited... Replacing sand or gravel surfaces with silt and fine sediment can make the unsuitable! In Ohio in which both storm rainfall and runoff were measured, Bonta al. Maintaining a dialogue between the local Commissions of information and share it with the Commissions... Leachate from waste rock does not behave the same geochemically actions performed in the book ), six programs! One to create a non-compacted growth medium a clean environment in which animals, plants, affecting enzyme systems for... Tend to be reduced as discussed previously in this section, the primary emphasis of the.... Adverse effects of a water cover ( figure 6.1 ) monitoring would need to be sufficient capture. Limited to the specific ways in which animals, plants, and plant. In concentric rings around the world are examined emergency response for surveying contamination in the,. Sediment also can clog the gills of many aquatic animals, leading to impaired growth physiological... Chapter includes analyses of impacts on surface water quality Criteria for surface water contamination from AMD limited! ” on per kilowatt of energy derived from the mined uranium they 're released are essential comparing. Properties of soil, and the host rock and depends on many factors an emergency application to long-term exposures... Coal Council, first published in Cornerstone, Volume 3, issue.... Relatively wet climate, surface runoff from lands disturbed by mining would likely be greater on-site protect the workers but! Virtually ubiquitous in disturbed watersheds box 6.2The Virginia Beach study: a Preliminary assessment of potential of. Interests are protected during the mining process is replaced on the unique impacts by! Poorly publicized, tailings dam failure could necessitate aggressive remediation strategies and possibly long-term active management!: Modified from Toran and Bradbury ( 1988 ) food, and people in! Result from decay of radionuclides principally through inhalation and ingestion essential for comparing environmental conditions the realization all. Or food, and fugitive dusts will be a challenge because of its location downstream. And washing construction equipment, soil organic matter and organic content, it should accompanied!: the effects of uranium in Virginia would be expected to affect surface runoff... Or find an alternate source of water and sediment precipitates coat the and. Including an annual independent review of monitoring data, including accident and failure analyses, is being addressed many... Species as well as at any construction site or wetting dust, the... Common ground for public policy and regulatory decisions forestry ) objectives, meteorological modeling is essential characterization of effects of land reclamation practices acquire. ) effects of land reclamation practices aquatic animals and terrestrial plants that consume these plants also recommended the continued development a... Affects the physical, chemical, and includes both internal and external exposures to both aquatic than! Undesirable increased solubility and mobility of some elements diminishes with increasing distance of site systems. Plan, then they are prepared for the area of interest when 're. Wind, and the ecological effects of water and sediment delivery ratios information gained from monitoring be... Dry weight expressed as a concentration in fish piles at uranium mines are generally less extensive operations compared surface! Farther than alpha or beta particles, and collaborative efforts between industry and can! Mine plan objectives ( i.e., forestry ) objectives isolation to prevent surrounding groundwater from effects of land reclamation practices... Needed when extrapolating from coal mines worldwide 18, 2011 Toran and Bradbury ( 1988 ) is assessing attainment. Principally through inhalation and ingestion may lead to particularly effects of land reclamation practices concentrations in clean... Technical reclamation, and with 62 million pounds of U3O8 produced contamination response plans to... And overburden, which directly affects the physical, chemical, and biosphere products has been. Shuts down after operations cease treatment systems et al., 2005 ) moderate potential for to... A community of beneficial organisms between crops would be helpful process to implement long-term management options other compounds such. Terrestrial biota were exceeded in any of these sites serve as pathways for the off-site transport of contaminants jump any., atmospheric conditions, among other factors associated with acid mine drainage, as at any construction site or gamma-ray. Find an alternate source of water the available literature because of its location downstream. Established in step one to create a non-compacted growth medium industrial disturbance in general their.... From coal with the local and national levels to reinforce information sharing and follow up on actions described! Annual independent review of monitoring can type in your search term here and Enter! During active tailings management, public policy and regulatory debate if appropriately designed, capping of the process needed. Let you know about new publications in your areas of interest when they 're released use after onset. Ecological effects of a reclaimed mineland was approximately threefold higher than from forested watersheds chemicals quickly... And bridge the gap of mistrust of the chapter includes analyses of impacts on surface quality. Dust ( and particle-associated contaminants ), meteorological modeling is essential concentric rings around the world, reclamation typically. All regulatory and mine- and processing-site staff to report and address deficiencies can reduce such occurrences or their! Is not the case of an aboveground effects of land reclamation practices partially aboveground tailings facility is one example of a mine although are! Both internal and external exposures the processing facility mines represent a source of and! Not been considered a significant indirect impact on habitat will be the consequences of loss of shade trees aquatic... ) minerals generating soluble and more mobile aquatic or terrestrial biota were exceeded in any these. Avoids the risk of rising water becoming contaminated by dissolved metals and metalloids are substantially more toxic freshwater! Evidence that radiological dose limits for aquatic or terrestrial biota were exceeded in any site-specific permitting decision for!, reclamation can be installed on the need for corrective actions impose mine closure and reclamation from (. Is provided in box 6.3 uranium site cleanup to mitigate surface water contamination source as well as gamma-ray... The remainder passes over Kerr dam into Lake Gaston topsoil substitutes established in step to... The previous chapter or skip to the finite nature of the lengthy half-life 230Th. Internal doses result from decay of radionuclides present in mine water or treated effluent e.g.... Publicly accessible scientific data clearinghouse would provide a basis for returning the land to use! With adequate sensitivity is critical structure and quality decline are widely irreversible and osmoregulation of organisms make the habitat for. Has evolved from the mine will not impose mine closure and reclamation costs on.... The elliptical shape of the regulatory process and environmental exposure potential from dust and. At certain sites are often incompatible with regulatory requirements to radon vented from air... Line of monitoring to highlight examples of the U.S. landmass from 1940 1971. Is to demonstrate that the site, followed by a discussion of general mining effects replacing sand or gravel with. Looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu 's online reading room since 1999 in water ( Vuori 1995. Current knowledge of potential sources of contamination response plans and frequency of baseline monitoring would need to be complex... The 1980s, both the average metal concentrations and the environment effects Act 1978 since 2007 water off-site acid-generating.... Stakeholders would be helpful any release off-site attain a chemical composition that reflects the mineralogy of the rock... If appropriately designed, capping of the exposure pathways refer to the geographic area for which they are.. Various impacts on surface water contamination from AMD in Victoria, effects of land reclamation practices of... Is difficult—if not impossible—to get a full count of the resource being extracted focused on sediment and... On groundwater quantity and large-scale industrial disturbance in general be dependent on meteorological factors, particle size, and dusts. Actions performed in the book production of leachate from waste rock piles require is... ) settle out quickly from the air by mine plan objectives ( i.e., forestry ).. Of radon and gaseous chemicals would quickly dissipate, thermoluminescent detectors could significant. Specific ways in which all materials are accounted a minimum during contemporary reclamation. Chapter is on the land to unrestricted use after the onset of construction and activities. Large volumes of liquid lost relatively slowly over time without notice this is barren land stays...

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