Discussion - Physical limnology of existing mine pit lakes – Technical Papers, Mining Engineers Vol. 49, No. 12 pp. 76-80, December 1997 by Doyle, G. A. and Runnells, D. D.

Kalin, M. ; Steinberg, C.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 2
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1999
We have worked on several flooded pits from coal-mining activities in the former East Germany, as well as ones associated with hard- rock mining, including the B-zone pit discussed in the above technical paper. We found the paper to be a useful summary, but, unfortunately, it failed to give an adequate comparison of the physical limnology of the flooded pits, which is an essential component. While the title suggests that the primary focus of the review is physical limnology, it appears that it is essentially pit-lake chemistry being presented. Physical limnology requires that factors such as fetch, latitude, light penetration, relation to ground water table, methods of flooding and the physical shape of the pits be defined. These physical aspects of a pit interact with the chemical and biological processes taking place in it, all of which contribute to the character of a water body. Few of these physical aspects are presented, however. The conclusion that the authors reach suggests that meromixis may be a condition that would serve as an effective containment mechanism for contaminants in a pit. Although this may be desirable, such limnological conditions are not clearly supported by the data presented for any of the pits. These data should be summarized to facilitate comparison between the same structural units of the pit water - the epi- and metalimnion for example. The thermocline depth is a reflection of the physical forces mixing the water body, and pit dimensions affect these forces. Due to the use of different scales in Figs. 2 through 5, it is difficult to determine whether the thermocline is at the expected depth, because the fetch is not given. Moreover, the status of a water body cannot be determined unless measurements cover a period of at least one year, and depth profiles are completed to represent the entire depth of the pit. This shortcoming is most notable in the case of the Berkeley pit, where data are given for depths of only 20 and 35 m (66 and 115 ft), although the pit is reported to be 242 m (794 ft) deep. Limnological data to define the status of the pit water have to be collected at regular intervals, for the same parameters. The authors present temperature measurements for 1-m (3.3-ft) intervals, but fail to use that interval for other parameters, such as dissolved oxygen or, in some cases, for contaminant concentrations. Furthermore, the profiles for the deepest part of the pit display only part of the picture, because pits are rarely conical. Profiles can be considered to represent the status of a water body only after other stations in the pit have been monitored regularly and the consistency is determined. For example, fresh water, which can enter a pit at any depth, would interfere with the proposed meromictic conditions. Similarly, organic material at the bottom of a pit, such as the fish-waste deposited in the Gunnar pit, contribute to oxygen consumption. Oxygen depletion alone is not indicative of meromixis. It is interesting to note that the Dpit arsenic concentrations could possibly be slightly higher than the B-zone pit concentrations at depth, although this is difficult to determine accurately when a log scale is used for the D-pit and not for the B-zone pit. In our investigations, we noted arsenic removal in the B-zone pit bottom water, which was due to the formation of particles that are relegated to the newly forming sediment in the bottom of the pit. Particle-carrying contaminants form due to a combination of geochemical and biological factors and TSS contributed from erosion of the upper parts of the pit walls, whereas the settling out of particles from the water column is controlled by the physical conditions or turn over, for example. during ice cover in the B-zone pit. Although meromictic conditions for flooded pits may be desirable at decommissioning, this would depend largely on the physical conditions of the pit, because, under no circumstances, would this water be of desirable ground-water quality. Under meromictic conditions, acidity, if an environmental issue, may be reduced by microbial acid-neutralizing activity, and several heavy metals may form more or less stable sulphitic compounds. These may stay suspended in the water if conditions are such that they are not relegated to the sediments, i.e., in the absence of turnover. These processes do not take place in meromictic conditions only, but meromixis does require autochthonous and/or allochthonous organic substrate supplies, which are generated under aerobic conditions. Specific limnological (biological, chemical and physical) features of the pit lake under consideration have to be defined, such that water quality parameters can be predicted, and the objectives of the decommissioning activities, environ-
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