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Keywords:

  • mine environment;
  • acid drainage;
  • pollution;
  • microbial influence

Abstract

The exploitation of coal and metallic mineral resources worldwide invariably results in the production of large quantities of overburden, gangue, and tailings materials containing significant amounts of sulfide minerals. These sulfide minerals, which include sphalerite, chalcopyrite, galena, and other complex sulfides, are often disseminated in pyrite, which is the most abundant sulfide mineral in the earth's crust. Once exposed to water and oxygen through mining and mineral processing operations, these sulfides become immediately susceptible to chemical and biochemical oxidation with the consequent production of highly acidic, metal-laden leachates, which are generally referred to as acid rock drainage (ARD) or acid mine drainage (AMD). This ARD production, which can be sustained for hundreds of years, has become the single biggest environmental problem facing the mining and mineral industry. Untreated acid rock drainage leads to serious contamination of large areas of land, as well as surface and ground water resources. The seriousness of the problem has led to major research efforts to find solutions. However, effective ARD treatment and prevention solutions have eluded the scientific community over the past decades. This paper presents a detailed review of the current state of scientific knowledge with regard to the magnitude of the problem, the chemistry and mechanism of sulfide mineral oxidation and ARD formation, the role of microorganisms in ARD formation process, and the proposed approaches for the treatment, control, and prevention of ARD formation. Copyright © 2007 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.