Interdisciplinary Approach to the Analysis of Acid Mine Drainage at an Underground Lead Zinc Mine

Ralston DR, ; Williams RE,
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 10
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1988
Acid mine drainage is a serious environmental and economic concern, resulting in regulation of the mining industry and significant water treatment costs. An interdisciplinary approach is needed to analyze the many aspects of a complex acid drainage problem. This paper describes the integrated application of techniques from the following fields to the characterization of acid drainage at a large underground lead-zinc mine: 1) hydrogeology, 2) surface stream analysis, 3) structural analysis of fracture distribution, 4) hydrochemistry, 5) geostatistics, and 6) multivariate statistics. The Bunker Hill Mine in northern Idaho, is developed in highly fractured and faulted quartzites and discharges 95 L/sec of water with an average pH of 2.8 and an average zinc concentration of 120 mg/L. Research has been conducted on all aspects of the acid water production and drainage problem. Recharge to the mine has been investigated using geophysical techniques and tracer studies. Fracture mapping and geostatistical analysis of the fracture data have been used to determine characteristics of inflow to the mine workings. Hydrograph analysis techniques have been applied to water flow data within the underground workings. Chemical sampling and analysis have been used to identify acid producing workings, and better understand mechanisms controlling acid water production. Multivariate statistical techniques have been applied to analyze the quality and flow data. Research results from the many subprojects of the Bunker Hill study reveal the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of acid mine drainage problems.
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