Protecting our environment - managing mines' environmental liabilities
Friday 4 January 2008
University of Newcastle researchers are developing a new model to manage one of the biggest environmental liabilities facing the world's mining industry - potential contaminants in former open cut mines.
Professor Daichao Sheng and Professor John Carter from the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment have secured an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant of $330,000 for the project.
"Currently, when an open cut mine is closed, it is usually covered by an engineered layer of soil fill to contain the mine waste," Professor Sheng said.
"Infiltration of rainwater through the cover can lead to acid mine drainage, which occurs when sulphides in mine waste react with oxygen and water, releasing contaminants such as iron, aluminium, manganese and other toxic heavy metals into the groundwater and surface water.
"Acid mine drainage is one of the biggest environmental liabilities facing the world's mining industry. We are working on the development of a model which predicts the longterm performance of the engineered soil cover, taking into account factors such as climate change, predicted rainfalls and droughts, the natural ecosystem, and many other variables."
The Australian mineral resource industry generates more solid waste than any other industrial or municipal sector.
This proposed research project falls into the national research priority of An Environmentally Sustainable Australia by addressing the goal of Soil Loss, Salinity and Acidity.
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Best wishes from the University of Newcastle Media and Public Relations team for a safe and happy Christmas and New Year.