The Impact of a Derelict Base Metal Mine on the Aquatic Environment

McIlveen GR,
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 10
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1988
The water pollution hazard posed by the derelict Conrad mine site, to the water and associated stream sediment of Borah and Maids Creeks and the nearby Copeton Dam storage, has been assessed. Mine water, tailings and tailings dump leachate have polluted water and stream sediments in Borah Creek downstream of the mine site. Acidity, arsenic, copper, lead, iron, silver and zinc are the principal pollutants. Under dry and low flow conditions, mine water was found to be the dominant polluting source, however, leachate and run-off from tailings dumps were also significant under and following wet conditions. Soluble arsenic, lead, iron and silver species in mine water and leachate were found to be rapidly incorporated into sediments, but acidity, copper, and zinc persisted in the creek water. Under low flow conditions, the water of Maids Creek is polluted with copper and zinc (up to 4.4 and 34 mg/l for copper and zinc respectively) and the pH is decreased (from pH 5 - 7 to pH 3 - 6) by entry of Borah Creek water. Values found in Maids Creek were variable and related to flow regime and distance downstream from Borah Creek confluence. Water in Copeton Dam storage, having a much larger volume of water with a higher bicarbonate buffering capacity (50mg/l versus 15mg/1), is not affected by entry of Maids Creek water. Polluted sediment from Borah Creek has contaminated Maids Creek for 2km downstream to Copeton Dam storage. Stream sediment downstream of the Borah Creek confluence, contains up to 1.0% As and 1.4% Pb in the less than 200 micron size fraction. Under high flow conditions, arsenic was found to be moved out from the mine site as insoluble species, associated with suspended sediment in Run-off.
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