Comparison of Predicted Acidic Drainage Potential to Field Water Quality at a Low Sulphur Coal Mine

Mehling, Peri ; Sharman, Kevin
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 11
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
A detailed assessment of acid rock drainage (ARD) potential was conducted at the Quintette Coal Mine site in northeastern British Columbia The site is unusual in that the coal seams contain low sulphur levels as compared to eastern coals (typically less than 0.5%), and the non-coal wastes generally do not to have the potential to generate acid on the basis of static ABA tests. The presence of small iron-stained seeps on the pit walls indicate localized sulphide oxidation, while the overall mine site drainage has remained of excellent quality with extremely low levels of metals after approximately 15 years of mining. Thus the site provides an excellent comparison to more problematic coal mine sites. For the Quintette assessment, static acid-base accounting (ABA) analyses of individual samples were compared to criteria for potentially acid generating materials developed for the U.S. Appalachian coal, as well as criteria developed in British Columbia for hard rock mines. Geologic units were characterized by the percentage of samples, or weighted thickness, that was deemed potentially acid generating (PAG). Links were then made to actual seepage and water quality emanating from geologic units around the site. Seeps at the site demonstrate a large range in pH (2.32 to 8.18). The few acidic seeps (pH < 4.0) were found to contain elevated levels of sulphates, dissolved iron, manganese and aluminum, consistent with the metals typically of concern in Appalachian coal mines. Other heavy metals that were detected in acidic seeps at Quintette included copper, zinc, nickel and cadmium. The use of simple ABA tests, and comparison of individual sample results with the Appalachian and British Columbia criteria, was found to be useful in predicting the probable sources of the small localized acidic seeps.
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