| History |
Applications of GIS in Mine
Throughout the Western United States several thousand historic mines exist. Various waste from past hard-rock mining operations have contaminated the surrounding watersheds. Weathering of exposed minerals often results in acid drainages and metal enriched waters (USGS 1). According to the material that is presently being targeted, the method of mining was adjusted along with the location. Different historical approaches for the extraction of certain ores led to two primary methods; the placer method used for mining gold and the use of stamp mills for mining ores and other mineral concentrates. These types of sulfide mining removed considerable amounts of surficial sediments, often exposing heavy metals and other waste materials such as quartz, refractory silicate minerals, stable (inert) iron hydroxides, and clay. Waste piles or tailings from stamp mills and placers produced accumulations of metals and metalloids containing cadmium, arsenic, manganese, zinc, aluminum, and iron, which all are susceptible to leach into surface and ground water supply.
The principal concerns with groundwater and surface water are the affects from acid mine drainage, often causing a low pH (SCI and IEC, Chapter 3, 2006). Current research, often involves the use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). These systems are now being used for focusing on the processes that influence movement of contamination and the resulting ecological effects (USGS).
Remediation can be easily linked to many dispersed locations of tailings, smelter waste, and various waste rock piles of abandoned mines. Numerous remediation efforts throughout the United States have been in effect. Concerns of ecological risks associated with contamination led responsible parties such as the EPA and others (Trustees) to take responsive actions (U.S. EPA). Trustee Councils are formed to evaluate damages to natural resources and are primarily comprised of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management on behalf of the State, and the Bureau of Reclamation on behalf of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), the Department of Public Health and Environment on behalf of the State, and the Department of Natural Resources on behalf of the State (SCI and EIC, Chapter 1, 2002).
The most common types of remediation include stream bank stabilization, revegetation, treatment of irrigated meadows, removal or maintenance of waste deposits, diversion of water flow, and capping of abandoned mines. Recent remediation and reclamation efforts have been conducted with Global Positioning Systems and Geographic Information Systems. Incorporation of GIS has been used for predicting future impacts on water quality from past and current mining locations. Improvements in Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and GIG modeling, have proved worthwhile in statistical analyses of defining variables in which acid mine drainage can be contained (Yager, 2009). Surveying and GIS mapping of abandoned mines as well as their sufficial features including waste piles can be integrated into GIS database. Real-time data can be acquired throughout these systems and can become accessible to federal and state agencies. Subsequently this data can be overlain onto maps to make routes, locations, and surficial features available.
Mapping and surveying mine openings, waste piles, and various features can be available to state systems for accurate and proper orientation for remediation and reclamation (Oliver, 2001). More recently GIS systems have been able to provide three-dimensional views that can be used in preparation for reclamation efforts. Remediation efforts are permitable throughout analyses of vegetation, geologic units, and drainages in regard to these systems (Yager, 2009). After phases of reclamation have been completed, both GPS and GIS systems can be integrated to monitor sites and document remediation closure.
Applications of GIS in Mine Reclamation
For a long period of time, mining was not regulated in the United States. Tailings and waste rock was simply ejected onto the surface wherever was convenient. When a mine was no longer profitable the site was simply abandoned. As a consequence, there are heavy concentrations of unsightly and hazardous mining waste on the surface in areas where valuable minerals can be found in the local geologic features. Unfortunately, much of this mining waste contains heavy metals that have leeched out of the ejecta via the local hydrologic cycle. In areas where mines are concentrated or where the tailings are especially rich in heavy metals, the drainage coming off of waste piles can be very acidic. In some cases, the drainage can have a low enough pH to inhibit plant and animal life in and around the stream. The lack of plant life on the banks of the stream allows the banks to erode much quicker than a healthy riparian zone.
GIS can be used to, not only map the existing areas of contamination, but to predict future areas of contamination. Monitoring areas that have been remediated and providing possible solutions for areas that are contaminated or are in danger of being contaminated are also applications of GIS. In addition, GIS can help the existing trustees given the responsibility of maintaining and providing drinking water supplies to forecast and prepare for previously unforeseen complications.
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Smith, K.S., Walton-Day, K., and Ranville, J.F., 2000. Evaluating the Effects of Fluvial Tailings Deposits on Water Quality in the Upper Arkansas River Basin, Colorado--observational scale considerations, in Proceedings from the Fifth International Conference on Acid Rock Drainage, Denver, Colorado, May 21-24, 2000: Littleton, Colo., Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, p. 1415-1424.
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Weasley, O.P. & Steckelberg, A.G., (2002), Use of Integrated GPS and GIS Systems in Mine Reclamation. Paper presented at the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs (NAAMLP) Annual conference, 15-18 September 2002. Retrieved from the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining website: https://fs.ogm.utah.gov/pub/MINES/AMR_Related/NAAMLP/GIS2/WsyStec k.pdf
Yager, Douglas., Manning, Andrew., Caine, Jonathan., Smith, Kathleen., U.S. Geological Survey. GIS and Statistical Analysis of Watershed Physical Characteristics, Silverton Mining Area, Colorado. 2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting. Accessed at http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2009AM/finalprogram/abstract_167137.htm on Dec 3, 2009.