Over 1.2 million people are either directly or indirectly employed in the mining industry in the U.S. and Canada representing a significant impact on the economy in North America.  Mining, as with any industry, however, is not without its challenges and one of the mining industries’ most significant challenge is reducing or eliminating any negative environmental impact that may occur due to the mining process.  With the sheer number of people employed in the industry along with the revenues generated from the mining industry, governments are challenged with maintaining a balance between industry revenues and our environment. 

Waste is categorized into two different types: tailings and waste rock stockpiles. It is the “tailings” that are of particular concern as they are full of small, fine particles that can be absorbed into the water and ground surrounding a particular mine.  Regardless of whether a contaminant is deemed tailings or waste rock stockpiles, the contamination of the water is the main concern.  Water can be contaminated in three ways: sedimentation, acid drainage, and metals deposition, and once contaminated are difficult to restore to its original quality.

Mining can create harmful effects on the surrounding surface, groundwater, and adjacent waterways. If not properly treated high concentrations of chemicals, such as sulfuric acid, selenium, arseniccopper, iron, high acidity, and mercury can be prevalent for decades after mining operations have ceased operations.  Although acid rock drainage occurs naturally due to natural rock erosion this process is exacerbated by large-scale earth excavations consistent with mining activities.  As a result, high levels of sulfide minerals become exposed and drain into the soil, groundwater, streams, and rivers.

The mining industry uses large amounts of water for mineral extraction, drainage purposes, and other mining processes which increase the ability for chemicals to contaminate ground and surface water.  Mining operations produce large volumes of wastewater and have limited access to various disposal methods due in part to their contaminates within the wastewater.  Proper containment and treatment is the most environmentally sound solution, with some mining operations being halted due to their overabundance of contaminates proper containment and treatment is financially sound as well.

Tailings disposal remains a viable option to at the very least contain contaminants from escaping beyond certain perimeters until such time that adequate treatment or removal can take place.

Wet Tech Environmental recognizes the advanced oxidation process (AOP) as a viable process for the remediation of the mining industries’ tailings ponds.  The high oxidative capability and efficiency make the Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) an accepted technique for the elimination of the most recalcitrant organic and inorganic contaminants.  This process relies on in-situ production of reactive hydroxyl radicals, the strongest oxidants which can be applied in water and can virtually oxidize any compound present in water.  Wet Tech can produce reactive hydroxyl radicals through our “Cold Plasma” process or our “Cavitation” process.  Once formed the hydroxyl radical will react unselectively and contaminants will be fragmented and converted into small inorganic molecules.  Hydroxyl radicals require a primary oxidant such as ozone, hydrogen, peroxide, or oxygen and/or energy sources such as ultraviolet light or a catalyst titanium dioxide.