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Workshop Contents | Workshop Abstract | Related Links | Workshop Presentation Notes - U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 03-210

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Determining the Toxicity Potential of Mine Waste Piles

A Workshop Presented at the Joint Conference of the Billings Land Reclamation Symposium and the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation, Billings, Montana, June 1, 2003

Presented by Kathleen S. Smith1, Thomas R. Wildeman2, LaDonna M. Choate1, Sharon F. Diehl1, David L. Fey1, Philip L. Hageman1, James F. Ranville2, Rosalia Rojas3, and Bruce D. Smith1

  1. U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, Colorado
  2. Rocky Mountain Regional Hazardous Substance Research Center and the Colorado School of Mines
  3. Rocky Mountain Regional Hazardous Substance Research Center and Colorado State University

Workshop Contents

  1. Introduction
    1. Scope of the workshop (by Tom Wildeman)
    2. Fundamentals of mine drainage formation and chemistry (by Kathy Smith and Tom Wildeman)
    3. Mining wastes overview (by Sharon Diehl and Kathy Smith)
  2. Methods to Determine Bioaccessibility of Metals from Waste (by LaDonna Choate and Jim Ranville)
  3. Physical Characterization
    1. Physical characterization of mine-waste piles (by Tom Wildeman)
    2. Fate and transport of metals and sediment in surface water (by Rosalia Rojas, Pierre Julien, and Mark Velleux)
  4. The Importance of Geology (by Sharon Diehl)
  5. Geophysical Applications to Mine-Waste Piles (by Bruce Smith)
  6. Waste Pile and Water Sampling (by Kathy Smith)
  7. Chemical Analysis of Solids, Waters, and Leachates (by Kathy Smith)
  8. Leaching Tests
    1. Leaching studies (by Phil Hageman)
    2. Assessing the toxicity of mine-waste piles: Chemical criteria (by Tom Wildeman)
  9. Acid-Base Accounting (by David Fey)
  10. Using the Decision Tree (by Tom Wildeman)
  11. References

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Assessing the Toxicity Potential of Mine-Waste Piles

A workshop presented by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO and the Rocky Mountain Regional Hazardous Substance Research Center, Colorado State University, and the Colorado School of Mines


When assessing the environmental impact from mining operations, an immediate question arises about potential impact and toxicity of mine-waste piles. This question is particularly difficult to assess for waste piles on abandoned mine lands in the western United States and coal-waste piles in the eastern United States. In many of these situations, there is no water in direct contact with the piles, except during meteorological events, yet it appears that the pile has caused significant ecological disturbance. For the past several years, scientists at the Colorado School of Mines and the U.S. Geological Survey have been studying the toxicity potential of waste-rock piles. Simple and practical methods have been developed for determining the potential of a waste-rock pile to cause significant contamination. For example, quick inexpensive field leaching tests have been developed that offer an evaluation of acid and trace-metal release from mine-waste material. Additionally, 2-D hydrologic and erosion models might be used to assess acid and metal sources and sinks. Such methods will be presented for evaluating mine-waste piles from watershed scale, site scale, and microscopic scale, using geophysical, geochemical, and mineralogical methods. Current methods used to determine bioaccessability and bioavailability of metals from wastes, such as extraction techniques, will be described and assessed. Case studies with field and laboratory data will illustrate these methods. These applications will be used as the basis for a simple decision tree that has been developed to assess the potential impact of a waste-rock pile, and the scientific background that serves as the basis for decisions.

Workshop Time: 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., June 1, 2003

Workshop organizers:

Tom Wildeman
Dept. of Chemistry & Geochemistry
Colorado School of Mines
Golden, CO 80401
Phone: 303-273-3642
Kathy Smith
U.S. Geological Survey
M.S. 964, Denver Federal Center
Denver, CO 80225-0046
Phone: 303-236-5788

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USGS Minerals Program:

USGS Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center:

USGS Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Team:

USGS Mine Waste Characterization:

Rocky Mountain Regional Hazardous Substance Research Center:

Colorado School of Mines:

Colorado State University:

Montana Tech of The University of Montana:

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