Reclamation can be roughly defined as the replacement of soil materials—often to approximate original contour—and revegetation of mined areas or areas adjacent to mines that have been affected by mining activities. An alternative definition, offered by the International Energy Agency’s Clean Coal Centre, is “the process of repairing any negative effects of mining activities on the environment”. Technical guides used in each field office are localized so that they apply specifically to the geographic area for which they are prepared. • Tailings disposal sites represent potential sources of contamination for thousands of years, and the long-term risks remain poorly defined. Nevertheless, pending detailed site-specific characterization and engineering studies at potential uranium processing facility sites, the use of partially abovegrade tailings facilities cannot be discounted. Uranium extraction using a strong acid leaching technique also tends to solubilize metals—the same process that occurs in AMD. The effects of mine waste and tailings management on surface waters would depend on the amount and composition of the various waste materials, the methods used in processing the uranium ore, the ways in which the various waste materials are stored and disposed, and the steps taken to reduce the impacts on surface water quality. Even with mining plans in place, mining can substantially affect local or regional environments. Placer. mine released untreated mine waters into the Finniss River during the 1950s and 1960s. An aboveground tailings dam failure (e.g., due to liquefaction associated with a seismic event, an exceptionally high rising rate from local precipitation, improper spillway design leading to overtopping) would allow for a significant sudden release of ponded water and solid tailings into receiving waters (see Box 6.2). Mining activity involves the removal of soil and overburden, which directly affects the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil. Several field and modeling studies of surface mining for coal in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States have shown that rates of storm runoff generally increase (relative to a forested reference basin) with increasing mining activity in a watershed. A carefully developed groundwater monitoring program with sufficient baseline data would be necessary to distinguish the effects of mining activities from existing groundwater conditions and naturally occurring concentrations of trace elements and radionuclides (discussed later in this chapter). This loss will have long-term ecological effects in cases where woodlands or forests are removed and not restored, although it may be possible to restore grasslands following site closure. Ecological Monitoring at Uranium Mine Sites. A minority of our Canadian diamonds come from other mines in the country. Thorium is of potential interest because it may occur in higher concentrations than uranium in typical uranium ores and typically occurs in higher concentrations in the waste rock and tailings. The GEP emphasized the importance of maintaining a dialogue between the local and national levels to reinforce information sharing and follow up on actions. It also was not asked to compare the relative risks of uranium mining to the mining of other fuels such as coal. as well as the knowledge regarding the toxicity of these substances. Virginia has extensive experience with mining and its impacts, and thus the primary focus of this chapter is on the specific environment impacts of uranium mining. The environmental transformations and transfer pathways responsible for this accumulation appear to be quite complex. Exploration. Stormflow increases would be expected to propagate to receiving streams downstream (with the local increase gradually attenuated farther downstream). In a comparative study of a reclaimed mineland and a forested control watershed in western Maryland, Simmons et al. NRCS describes a threefold purpose for land reclamation: Australia’s Department of Industry Tourism and Resources gives similar guidance for land reclamation, but also encourages consultation, reporting, and monitoring with stakeholders during mine plan development and mining activities. The empowerment of all regulatory and mine- and processing-site staff to report and address deficiencies can reduce such occurrences or minimize their impacts. In contrast, for open-pit mining the amount of disturbed soil is at a maximum. History. Effects of land pollution on the environment. Based on studies conducted at Elliot Lake, Canadian regulatory authorities identified several key factors that affect the capacity to adequately contain tailings waste in perpetuity4 in modern tailings facilities (CEAA, 1996). Fish kills were associated with pulses of highly contaminated water released during the onset of the rainy season. The potential for long-term environmental effects requires a probabilistic risk assessment, driven in part by the inherent risks posed by the uranium mining, processing, and waste handling, but mitigated by the pollution prevention measures. This core group should then develop a mechanism for. Ecologically significant exposures primarily involve (1) spills, leaching, and surface runoff reaching streams and other aquatic environments; and (2) uptake of dissolved chemicals by plant roots. However, it is important to note that the effect can differ with direction from the well because of anisotropy in aquifer permeability (Figure 6.3). Ecological exposures may lead to neurological and reproduction complications, breathing disorders, and liver and kidney problems (Lenntech, 2011b). The quality assurance project plan is the place where all of these decisions are documented so that the objectives are clear to the staff executing the monitoring plan, as well as regulatory officials and the public. Depending on water chemistry (especially pH), a variety of metals and metalloids, including copper, iron, aluminum, vanadium, and selenium can be released in high quantities. ARRI is a working group comprised of citizen representatives, industry, academia, and government, and was formed to encourage planting of productive trees on reclaimed coal mine lands and abandoned mine lands. Local-scale site management will require additional support from the local Commissions of Information and the creation of feedback mechanisms around the sites. Although many countries require reclamation plans for coal mining sites, undoing all the environmental damages to water supplies, destroyed habitats, and poor air quality is a long and problematic task. Depending on the scale of the tailings management area, properly engineered, sited, and constructed tailings disposal areas would not be expected to significantly affect surface water hydrology. FIGURE 6.2 Waste management in the JEB pit at McClean Lake in Saskatchewan, Canada. While having adequate funds for reclamation is clearly important, public policy must recognize that environmental protection, reclamation in this case, must be balanced with financial realities to avoid stifling economic activity and to allow mining companies to operate profitably. The intended use of the manual is to demonstrate that the site is sufficiently remediated to meet the decommissioning criteria. The results of the monitoring and model review, including recommendations for improvements, would be released to the public and submitted to the relevant authorities in a timely fashion. Operation of a uranium mine could be expected to affect groundwater quantity at the mine site with potential effects propagating off-site. Although these options are likely to mitigate the remaining environmental problems at Cluff Lake to a significant degree, experience has shown that the environmental legacy of uranium mining is persistent over long periods of time. Additional potential environmental hazards at the Cluff Lake site include the flooded mine workings and the tailings management area (Figure 6.1). These processes have the potential of increasing the concentration of groundwater constituents above primary, secondary, or aesthetic standards (see Chapter 7). (2005) reviewed the toxicity literature for uranium and derived the predicted no-effect concentrations (PNECs), which are concentrations of uranium in water or soil below which no adverse effects on exposed organisms are anticipated to occur: • Terrestrial plants, 250 mg U/kg (dry soil), • Other soil biota, 100 mg U/kg (dry soil), • Freshwater benthos, 100 mg U/kg (dry sediment), • Freshwater fish in very soft water (hardness of <10 mg CaCO3/L), 0.4 mg U/L, • Freshwater fish in soft water (hardness of 10-100 mg CaCO3/L), 2.8 mg U/L, • Freshwater fish in hard water (hardness of >100 mg CaCO3/L), 26 mg U/L. This chapter presents a discussion of impacts of uranium mining and processing operations on air quality, soil, surface water and groundwater, and biota. Open-pit mines generate dust directly to the air through blasting, loading into transport vehicles, and transport to the processing facility. As envisioned, the program would improve. It was Kleinfelder’s opinion that Baker did use appropriate methods and models in their study, but they questioned some of the assumptions of the study. Threats to groundwater quality related to modern tailings management originate from two sources: (1) failure of the structures designed to limit the movement of contaminants from the tailings into surrounding groundwater (e.g., tailings retaining structures, failure of the liners(s) and leak collection systems), and (2) inadequate hydraulic isolation in belowgrade disposal facilities (e.g., pump failure in active isolation, inadequate understanding of site hydrogeology, inadequate compaction of tailings in passive hydraulic isolation). Integrated monitors assess radiation exposure over a period of time (e.g., 2 weeks), which provides a. greater sensitivity but no instantaneous readings. In the United States, mine reclamation is a regular part of modern mining practices. +44 (0) 20 3745 2760Fax. Toxicity of nonradiological chemicals. In the case of an aboveground or partially aboveground tailings facility, a tailings dam failure could lead to significant release of contaminated water. Certain agricultural land use practices, such as overgrazing, land conversion, fertilization, and the use of agricultural chemicals, can enhance the growth of invasive plants. Land reclamation. In contrast to Rum Jungle, the Caldas mine utilized modern tailings and wastewater treatment facilities to collect and treat AMD from the waste rock piles as well as the acidic tailings; liquid and solid tailings were neutralized to pH 9 using calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and lime (CaO) before being discharged to the tailings facility for solid deposition. Reclamation activities can also target agricultural or silvicultural (i.e., forestry) objectives. • Uranium mining, processing, and reclamation in Virginia have the potential to affect surface water quality and quantity groundwater quality and quantity, soils, air quality, and biota. To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter. • Tailings disposal sites represent significant potential sources of contamination for thousands of years, and the long-term risks remain poorly defined. Model parameter values were determined by researching the available literature because of the shortage of site-specific data for the area of interest. Site surveillance systems: The GEP found that devices deployed at certain sites are often incompatible with regulatory requirements. Notably, the statement of task did not ask the study to address the likelihood of such an event; it asked only for an analysis of the outcome assuming it did occur. Information gained from monitoring can also provide the basis for evaluating the monitoring plan itself and making improvements as needed. Comprehensive baseline surveys of environmental characteristics are conducted prior to the start of mining and processing operations to provide an understanding of premining and processing conditions. Sign up for email notifications and we'll let you know about new publications in your areas of interest when they're released. Decanol biodegrades readily and is expected to adsorb to suspended solids in water and sediment. A comprehensive summary of the study is beyond the scope of this report but the key findings include: • A tailings dam failure could significantly increase the radioactivity in the river-reservoir system for extended periods of time. Groundwater will naturally have a composition that reflects the mineralogy of the host rock and depends on many factors. Major mining operations could require increased transportation infrastructure in Virginia, meaning more roads or improved roadways. Thus, the authors further concluded that long-term use of the river waters downstream of the site that receive Caldas mine effluent needs to be very carefully evaluated. The chemical and biological processes responsible for this acidification, and associated mobilization of toxic metals such as copper and zinc, are the same, BOX 6.4Ecological Effects of Key Substances Potentially Present in Mine or Tailings Discharge. Operational monitoring strategies need to be based upon the best available understanding of the regional hydrogeology, atmospheric conditions, and biosphere. situation. As noted above, Colorado (an agreement state, see Chapter 7) recently approved and licensed a partially abovegrade tailings disposal design for the Piñon Ridge uranium mill even though fully belowgrade disposal was considered the best option. A clear process is needed for reviewing monitoring data, including an annual independent review of monitoring data, and adjudicating data discrepancies. Knowledge gained through baseline and operational monitoring can be used to improve the understanding of site-specific hydrogeology and contaminant transport pathways. EPA’s Superfund program is responsible for cleaning up some of the nation’s most contaminated land and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters. Uranium Site Cleanup to Mitigate Ecological Impacts in France. True exceedances would trigger the need for corrective actions. Vanadium bioaccumulation has resulted in pervasive elevated concentrations in a variety of plant and animal species. Groundwater entering the mine can be pumped out and discharged at the surface, or the local water table can be lowered using a number of extraction wells surrounding the mine to prevent water from entering. Collaborative efforts between mining companies and conservation organizations can promote successful mine reclamation as these organizations can lend expertise in developing best practices for wildlife, water, plant, and/or soil management. Thus, monitoring can foster a broadly informed local community and bridge the gap of mistrust of the regulatory process. Relative to unmined lands covered by native second-growth forests, surface runoff from lands disturbed by mining would likely be greater on-site. Control measures would include dust suppression systems, spraying or wetting dust, and washing construction equipment before it leaves the site. Mayo. Research efforts to improve knowledge: The GEP recommended systematizing the characterization of sites to acquire better knowledge of potential sources of pollution. to the committee in late June 2011. Measured mean annual concentrations of total dissolved solids, sulfate, chloride, uranium, and molybdenum in Island Lake in 2002 were two or three orders of magnitude higher than during the baseline (i.e., premining) monitoring period. Various states and Native American tribes have used over US$4.06 billion of those funds to reclaim almost “240,000 acres of hazardous high-priority coal-related problems”. Sodium hydroxide. Radioactive effluents that could be airborne include particles and gases. Acid mine drainage conditions can lead to particularly elevated concentrations of these constituents. Perhaps the best available data on the environmental effects resulting from a modern uranium mine and processing facility are associated with the former Cluff Lake mine and processing facility, located in the Athabasca Basin of northern Saskatchewan, Canada, that treated high-grade ores ranging from 1 to 30 percent U3O8. The MARLAP Manual was prepared to address the need for a nationally consistent approach to producing radioanalytical laboratory data that meet a project’s or program’s data requirements and is considered to be the definitive guide for sampling and analysis. • Significant potential environmental risks are associated with extreme natural events and failures in management practices. Deep groundwater in some areas of Virginia is saline and, if under artesian pressure, would naturally flow upward to shallower depths if a conduit for flow were present. Shade trees provide both habitat for various species as well as modulation of temperature, wind, and rainfall. Belowgrade disposal in a pit or abandoned mine workings would have the benefit of minimizing radon release and acid formation because the tailings could be covered with water. A multistakeholder environmental monitoring strategy is an effective approach to address multiple concerns in crafting the monitoring program and to maintain trust among a diversity of stakeholders. (2010) found that selenium accumulated in benthic invertebrates in Fox Lake, downstream from the treated effluent discharge from the Key Lake Mill. Large amounts of rock are removed during the mining process that contain measurable quantities of uranium but are not economically viable for uranium production (also called protore). Providing timely and readily accessible information to stakeholders about measured environmental contaminant levels and doses to persons can provide assurances to the community that they are not subject to adverse impacts that are unseen and unmeasured. Although sodium hydroxide is not directly toxic to aquatic life, large enough amounts may cause water pH to rise above the tolerance limits of some freshwater aquatic species (California EPA, 2003). Conceptual models are diagrams or narrative descriptions that synthesize complex data and concepts regarding potential exposures and site-specific transport processes into an accessible format that offer an important tool for communicating with public stakeholders, regulators, and risk assessors (Suter, 1999; Cygan et al., 2006). The committee was able to locate ecological monitoring data for only a few uranium mining sites, and these data show that adverse impacts sometimes occur, but do not always occur when facilities are properly managed. These barriers likely would include compacted clay overlain by two synthetic liners with a leak collection system placed between them, and engineering design criteria for tailings management would presumably be set forth in state regulations. the section discusses ways to engage stakeholders in the development and implementation of the monitoring plan. The last uranium mine in the area was closed in 2001. The scenarios differ by varying one of five primary input variables: tailings volume, sediment concentration by weight of the tailings, tailings particle size distribution, radioactivity level of the tailings, and flood hydrograph of the receiving surface water body. For this reason, this chapter provides a review of the accumulated evidence from prior studies of mining and processing at comparable sites around the world—especially data from several relatively recent decommissionings of uranium mines and processing facilities in Canada. Soil compaction resulting from the use of heavy, earth-grading equipment during the reclamation process dramatically reduces soil infiltration capacity and increases storm runoff. • Models and comprehensive site characterization are important for estimating the potential environmental effects associated with a specific uranium mine and processing facility. In 2006, French authorities—including the Ministers of Ecology, Industry, and Health, as well as the President of the Nuclear Safety Authority—commissioned the Groupe d’Expertise Pluraliste sur les sites miniers d’uranium du Limousin (GEP; [Multidisciplinary Experts Group for the Uranium Mines of Limousin]) to evaluate recent progress made in the management of former uranium mining sites in France, both at the local level in Limousin as well as at the national level. The determination that contamination has occurred is based on comparison of data from upgradient and downgradient wells against a comprehensive preoperation baseline. A monitoring strategy will need clear goals and a feasible strategy by which those goals can be achieved. However, caution is needed when extrapolating from coal. In 1849, Congress passed the first of the Swamp Land Acts, which granted all swamp and overflow lands in Louisiana to the State for reclamation. Acid mine drainage (AMD) has the potential to be one of the most serious environmental problems caused by uranium mining in the Commonwealth of Virginia if it is not appropriately managed and mitigated. The Ekati mine demonstrates environmental stewardship by operating several initiatives including the Wildlife Effects Monitoring Program, Aquatic Effects Monitoring Program, Air Quality and Emissions Monitoring Program, and the Reclamation and Closure Program. Mathews et al. The authors also found that the rate at which selenium is removed from the water column and transferred to sediment and biota is influenced by both water chemistry and sediment characteristics, especially sediment total organic carbon. The selection of measurement methods with adequate sensitivity is critical. In Malaysia, the marine water quality is monitored by the Department of Environment (DOE) in Peninsular Malaysia since 1978 and 1985 in Sabah and Sarawak. There is a moderate potential for decanol to bioconcentrate in aquatic organisms. As coal reserves in a mine are removed or become uneconomical to continue mining, reclamation activities will replace removed soil and/or substrate materials and revegetate the mine in an effort to (1) return it to as close to natural state as possible or (2) redesign landforms to allow improved human access to, or use of, an area. Additionally, facilities may use other on-site monitoring to aid in documentation of material control and security, through material balances (see also NCRP, 2011). This dose rate is the sum of doses from all sources, including natural background radiation, and includes both internal and external exposures. During the decommissioning phase, soil infiltration can be reduced using engineered soil cover materials of low permeability (e.g., clays) that can be riprapped and vegetated to provide protection against physical erosion. The operational monitoring plan is best developed and updated in close cooperation with facility design and operations staff to adapt to changes in operations (e.g., relocated facilities, changes to process chemicals used). This section examines the important role that coal plays in building modern societies and in supporting access to energy. The tailings leachate with low pH and elevated metal and radionuclide concentrations led to declines in fish populations downstream (Clulow et al., 1998). Technical guides are the primary scientific references for NRCS. Due to the broad nature of the concept, most historians narrow their scope by focusing on a particular time period, a particular country or region, a particular person, group, or individual person, a particular theme, or any combination of those categories. The effects of the mine and mill tailings disposal on surface water hydrology would be similar to those associated with mining itself: greater storm runoff from disturbed land, including land previously mined and used for tailings disposal. This could include managers of the facility, support staff, technical experts, regulatory officials, potentially exposed residents nearby, and public interest groups. The disposal of waste rock is an issue in mining in general, because the volume of the mine voids cannot contain the entire volume of material removed during a mining operation; waste rock is typically stored in aboveground piles near a mine to minimize handling and disposal costs. Abandoned mine will not impose mine closure and reclamation is completed along with drainage measures. A discussion of general mining effects many developed countries, regulations now require land reclamation when project. 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