Delayed Environmental Impacts from Mining in Semi-Arid Climates

Kempton, Houston ; Atkins, David
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 10
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
Mining in semi-arid climates can produce environmental impacts that will not begin for hundreds of years, but once started, may continue for thousands of years. Pit lakes may eventually exceed toxicity thresholds as metals are evaporatively concentrated, and slow unsaturated flow through acid-generating waste can eventually load several kg-SO4/m2-yr to underlying water tables. U.S. regulations are poorly equipped to respond to delayed and long-term environmental impacts, delaying permits as operators and regulators grapple with uncertainty. Improved uncertainty analysis, additional long-term mitigation options, and explicit regulatory guidance offer solutions to this dilemma.
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