4 Proven Ways to Prevent Water Pollution Problems During Mining
Not a day passes by that we don’t take in the natural resource called water. However, this resource is becoming increasingly limited as a result of the activities of specific industries.
In this article, we’ll be shifting our focus to the mining sector, as this is one industry that earns a reputation for polluting water bodies.
Below, we’re going to look at how mining affects how we now see drinkable water and what practices mining companies can adopt to turn this negative into a positive.
Mining and Water Pollution: How Do They Correlate?
Yes, there’s an actual correlation between mining and water pollution. However, let’s get a solid foundation on how this industry makes use of water. For starters, it’s crucial for the excavation of raw materials from a mine.
That’s not all:
At any mining company, water has a truckload of other uses. It’s one crucial resource for processing minerals, recovering metals, and other mining processes.
It’s also worthy of note that the use of water might differ across mining sites. Although water is essential for the processing and not consumption, saving this limited resource requires a water recycling system to be employed by all companies in this sector.
Types of Mining Water
When we talk about mining water, what does it mean? The type of mining water (pollution) depends on the mining processes whereby water is a constant. They include:
Acid Mine Drainage (AMD)
Acid Mine Drainage effectively reduces any water source’s pH, giving rise to a water quality problem. Here, the AMD has a make-up of Sulphate and other heavy metals, making it highly acidic.
In terms of statistics, Acid Mine Drainage is the leading cause of water pollution worldwide.
Processing Chemicals Pollution
Chemical processing involves the combination of sulphuric acid or cyanide with water. This technique is crucial to remove mineral resources from their respective quarries.
Alongside other water pollutants associated with mining, these chemicals are dangerous to wildlife and human life alike.
Heavy Metal Contamination
Also known as Leachate, heavy metal contamination occurs when cadmium, cobalt, arsenic, silver, lead, and copper metals encounter water.
Consequently, when these metals “leach” on a rock, there’s a high chance that they can flow directly into the nearest water source, thereby polluting the water.
Since mining sometimes involves processes that are “earth-moving” most times, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that erosion caused by these activities results in a surge in sedimentation at nearby water bodies.
Water Pollution and the Human Populace
As we’ve established above, many of these water pollutants from different mining sites run directly into water sources. Regardless of what water body, water pollution has become a nagging problem for society at large.
When chemicals like fertilizers, heavy metals, and pesticides find their way into a nearby water source, humans might encounter serious health challenges when ingested.
In 2014, residents in Flint, Michigan, experienced a public health crisis when impurities such as lead and Legionella bacteria-contaminated water sources.
Consequently, most people came down with specific health issues ranging from skin rashes, itchy skin, and hair loss. Also, children that ingested water from this region had lead levels double in their bloodstreams.
- That said, a person that takes in these dangerous chemical toxins stands a high chance of having:
- Hormone disruption
- Decreased brain function
- Long-term damage to the reproductive and immune systems
- Kidney and heart-related problems
On the other hand, an individual that swims in a contaminated water body might experience:
- Infections in the respiratory tract
- Skin rashes
- Conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye”
Water Pollution: What Is the Way Forward?
Despite the perceived negatives in the above paragraphs, there’s still hope for the human race as water pollution is one issue that can be nipped in the bud, as long as there are specific preventive measures in place.
Although some mining companies like magnetation incorporate these policies, there’s still room for others to catch up to nullify this hazard effectively. These solutions include:
- An efficient recycling system that decreases water usage at mining sites
- Diverting water filled with impurities away from water bodies to fend off contamination
- A practical water treatment process for groundwater, process water, and any other form of water used in mining activities
- A water management system that runs during mining and long after the completion of all mining activities