Mineral Sand Mining and its Effect on Ground Water Quality

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 5
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1987
Tomago sandbeds is an unconfined coastal aquifer located 20km. north of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. These sandbeds extend over an area of about 130km. The average aquifer depth is about 20m. with a mean transmissivity of about 400sq.m/day and a specific yield of about 0.2. The city of Newcastle and surrounding areas derive water from Tomago for potable purposes. The average extraction being about 50 ML/day. The iron value of the ground water varies between 5 and 15mg/1. This iron is removed by a conventional water treatment plant using Alum. The aquifer whilst principally quartzose also contains deposits of heavy minerals like rutile, zircon, ilmenite, etc., The mineral sand mining has been in progress at Tomago since 1972. Mining is carried out in a con- structed pond with a water depth of about 5m. on which is floated a suction cutter dredge that moves across the front of the pond using a water jet to entrain the soil from the ground surface to the bottom of the mineralised zone. Effect of mineral sand mining on ground water quality, particularly iron, was the subject of intensive investigations undertaken at Tomago since 1970. The effect on water quality was studied by collecting and analysing water samples from network of observation wells established during the period of mining. Water samples were collected about 4-5 years prior to mining and analysed for iron, sulphate, chloride, pH, etc., After mining the observation wells were re-established at the same locations and water samples were collected and analysed for at least 5 years after mining. Water samples collected from majority of the observation wells indicate an increase in iron levels. The level of increase is very site specific. The increase in iron is also
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