Annual Report 1998
Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
Mining activities in the United States (not counting coal) produce between 1 and 2 billion tons of mine waste annually. These activities include extraction and beneficiation of metallic ores, phosphate, uranium, and oil shale. Over 130,000 of these noncoal mines, concentrated largely in nine western states, are responsible for polluting over 3,400 miles of streams and over 440,000 acres of land. About seventy of these sites are on the National Priority List for Superfund remediation. In the 1985 Report to Congress on the subject, the total noncoal mine waste volume was estimated at 50 billion tons, with 33% being tailings, 17% dump/heap leach wastes and mine water, and 50% surface and underground wastes. Since many of the mines involve sulfide minerals, the production of acid mine drainage (AMD) is a common problem from these abandoned mine sites. The cold temperatures in the higher elevations and heavy snows frequently prevent winter site access. The combination of acidity, heavy metals, and sediment have severe detrimental environmental impacts on the delicate ecosystems in the West.
End-of-pipe treatment technologies, while essential for short-term control of environmental impact from mining operations, are a stop-gap approach for total remediation. Efforts need to be made on improving the end-of- pipe technologies to reduce trace elements to low levels for applications in ultra-sensitive watersheds and for reliable operation in unattended, no power situations. The concept of pollution prevention, emphasizing at-source control and resource recovery, is the approach of choice for the long-term solution. Our objective in the Butte Mine Waste Technology Program is not to assess the environmental impacts of the mining activities, but it is to develop and prove technologies that provide satisfactory short- and long-term solutions to the remedial problems facing abandoned mines and the ongoing compliance problems associated with active mines, not only in Montana but throughout the United States.
There are priority areas for research, in the following order of importance:
Source Controls, Including In Situ Treatments and Predictive Techniques
It is far more effective to attack the problem at its source than to attempt to deal with diverse and dispersed wastes, laden with wide varieties of metal contaminants. At-source control technologies, such as sulfate-reducing bacteria; biocyanide oxidation for heap leach piles; transport control/pathway interruption techniques, including infiltration controls, sealing, grouting, and plugging by ultramicrobiological systems; and AMD production prediction techniques should strive toward providing a permanent solution, which of course is the most important goal of the program.
Improvements in short-term end-of-pipe treatment options are essential for providing immediate alleviation of some of the severe environmental problems associated with mining, and particularly with abandoned ore mines. Because immediate solutions may be required, this area of research is extremely important to effective environmental protection.
In the spirit of pollution prevention, much of the-2- mining wastes, both AMD (e.g., over 25 billion gallons of Berkeley Pit water) and the billions of tons of mining/beneficiation wastes, represent a potential resource as they contain significant quantities of heavy metals. While remediating these wastes, it may be feasible to incorporate resource recovery options to help offset remedial costs.
In these days of ever-tightening budgets, it is important that we leverage our limited funding with other agencies and with private industry. We are aggressively working to integrate the Butte program with the U.S. Department of Energy Resource Recovery Project to leverage both budgets. The Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service participate by providing sites for demonstrations of the technologies. It is important where these technologies have application to active mining operations to achieve cost-sharing partnerships with the mining industry to test the technologies at their sites. Within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Butte program is coordinated and teamed, where appropriate, with the Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation (SITE) program to leverage the funding and maximize the effectiveness of both programs. Several joint projects are underway, and more are planned.
A considerable resource and willing partner is the University system (such as Montana Tech of the University of Montana, University of MontanaMissoula, Montana State UniversityBozeman, and the Center for Biofilm Engineering), which can conduct the more basic type of research essential to kinetics characterization and bench-scale test more experimental, less developed concepts at minimal cost to the program, while at the same time providing environmental education that will be useful to the region and to the Nation. The Butte Mine Waste Technology Program supports cooperative projects between the educational system and the mining industry, where teams of students conduct research of mine site-specific problems, often with monetary support from the industry. The results are made available to the industry as a whole and to the academic community.
The research program is peer-reviewed semiannually by the Technical Integration Committee (TIC), who technically reviews all ongoing and proposed projects. The TIC is composed of technical experts from the cooperating agencies, academia, environmental stakeholders, and industry and their consultants.
Roger C. Wilmoth
Chief, Multimedia Technology Branch
Sustainable Technologies Division
National Risk Management Research Laboratory
Office of Research and Development
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (MS 445)
26 W. Martin Luther King Drive Cincinnati, OH 45268
The Mine Waste Technology Program (MWTP) Annual Report for Fiscal Year (FY)1998 summarizes the results and accomplishments for the various activities within the Program. After 7 years, everyone involved with the MWTP can look with pride to the Program's success. The MWTP has met its goals by providing assistance to the public and forming cooperative teams drawn from Government, industry, and private citizens. The funds expended have returned tangible results, providing tools for those faced with mine waste remediation challenges.
Technology development has proceeded successfully through the efforts of MSE Technology Applications Inc. (MSE) and its prime subcontractor Montana Tech.
MSE has developed twelve field-scale demonstrations, three demonstrations are attracting considerable attention from the stakeholders involved in the cleanup of mine wastes.
Montana Tech has developed eight bench-scale projects, five of which are also ongoing during 1997. In addition to these bench-scale projects, Montana Tech has demonstrated, also at a bench-scale, eleven water treatment technologies under the Berkeley Pit Innovative Technologies Project.
Numerous activities are associated with the development of a field-scale demonstration. Among these activities are acquiring federal and state permits, securing liability limiting access agreements, developing and adhering to health and safety operation plans, and complying with the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal and state environmental oversight statutes.
The Program has received substantial support from state and federal agencies, the mining industry, environmental organizations, and numerous associations interested in mining and development of natural resources at state, regional, and national levels.
Montana Tech continued the post-graduate degree program with a mine waste emphasis in which 40 students have enrolled. The quality of short courses offered by Montana Tech is becoming highly recognized among the mine waste remediation community.
The MWTP recognizes its major accomplishments and looks forward to providing new and innovative technologies; meeting the challenges of mine waste remediation; and providing low cost, permanent solutions to the nation's mineral waste problems.
Mary Ann Harrington-Baker
MSE MWTP Program Manager
Mining waste generated by active and inactive mining production facilities and its impact on human health and the environment are a growing problem for Government entities, private industry, and the general public. The nation's reported volume of mine waste is immense. Presently, there are 68 sites on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Priorities List.
Environmental impacts associated with inactive and abandoned mines (IAM) are common to mining districts around the country, as shown in Table 1.
Total estimated remediation costs for these states range from $4 to $45 billion.
Health effects from the predominate contaminants in mine waste range from mild irritants to proven human carcinogens, such as cadmium and arsenic. The large volume of mine wastes and consequential adverse environmental and human health effects indicates an urgency for cleanup of abandoned, inactive, and active mining facilities. The environmental future of the United States depends in part on the ability to deal effectively with mine waste problems of the past and present, and, more importantly, to prevent mine waste problems in the future.
According to a 1985 report to Congress, mining and related activities generate anywhere from 1 to 2 billion tons of waste each year with a current total waste volume of 50 billion tons. Of this total volume, approximately 85% is attributed to copper, iron ore, uranium, and phosphate mining and related activities. Approximately one-half of the waste generated is mining waste and one-third is tailings, with the balance consisting of dump/heap leaching wastes and mine water.
The FY91 Congressional Appropriation allocated $3.5 million to establish a pilot program in Butte, Montana, for evaluating and testing mine waste treatment technologies. The Mine Waste Technology Program (MWTP) received additional appropriations of $3.5 million in FY91, $3.3 million in FY94, $5.9 million in FY95, $2.5 million in FY96, $7.5 million in FY97, and $6.0 million in FY98.
The projects undertaken by this Program focus on developing and demonstrating innovative technologies at both the bench-and pilot-scale that treat wastes to reduce their volume, mobility, or toxicity. To convey the results of these demonstrations to the user community, the mining industry, and regulatory agencies, the MWTP includes provisions for extensive technology transfer and educational activities. This report summarizes progress made in FY98 by the MWTP.
Information was collected from the following sources and is only an estimate of the AMD problem in the West.
of Land Management
-Bureau of Mines
-Mineral Policy Center
-National Park Service
-U.S. Department of Agriculture
of the Interior
This MWTP annual report covers the period from October 1, 1997, through September 30, 1998. This section of the report explains the organization and operation of the MWTP.
The mission of the MWTP is to provide engineering solutions to national environmental issues resulting from the past practices of mining and smelting of metallic ores. In accomplishing this mission, the MWTP develops and conducts a program that emphasizes treatment technology development, testing and evaluation at bench-and pilot-scale, and an education program that emphasizes training and technology transfer. Evaluation of the treatment technologies focuses on reducing the mobility, toxicity, and volume of waste; implementability; short- and long-term effectiveness; protection of human health and the environment; community acceptance; and cost reduction.
The statement of work provided in the Interagency Agreement between the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) identifies six activities to be completed by the MWTP. The following descriptions identify the key features of each and the organization performing the activity.
Activity I: Issues Identification
Montana Tech of the University of Montana (Montana Tech) is documenting mine waste technical issues and innovative treatment technologies. These issues and technologies are then screened and prioritized in volumes related to a specific mine waste problem. Technical issues of primary interest are Mobile Toxic ConstituentsWater/Acid Generation, Mobile Toxic ConstituentsAir, Cyanide, Nitrate, Arsenic, Pyrite, and Selenium. Wasteforms reviewed related to these issues include point- and nonpoint-source acid drainage, abandoned mine acid drainage, stream-side tailings, impounded tailings, priority soils, and heap leach-cyanide/acid tailings.
Activity II: Generic Quality Assurance Project Plan
Montana Tech has prepared a generic quality assurance project plan that provides specific instructions on how data will be gathered, analyzed, and reported for all activities of the MWTP. Features of both the EPA and DOE quality requirements are incorporated into this plan. Project-specific quality assurance project plans are developed by MSE Technology Applications, Inc. (MSE). MSE provides oversight for all quality assurance activities.
Activity III: Pilot-Scale Demonstrations
MSE began eight field-scale demonstrations during FY98. The demonstration topics were chosen after a thorough investigation of the associated technical issue was performed, the specific waste form to be tested was identified, two levels of peer review were conducted, and sound engineering and cost determination of the demonstration were formulated.
Activity IV: Bench-Scale Experiments
Montana Tech successfully completed one bench-scale projects during FY97the Sludge Stabilization Project and the Photoassisted Electron Transfer Reactions Project. In addition to the completed projects, Montana Tech conducted research on five innovative technologies that show promise for cost effective remediation of mine wastes. One major criteria for these projects was the potential for scaling to field-scale demonstrations. The Berkeley Pit Innovative Technologies Project successfully completed three bench-scale demonstrations of treatment technologies associated with defining alternative remediation strategies for EPA's future cleanup objectives for the waters contained within the Berkeley Pit. The Berkeley Pit is an inactive, open-pit copper mine that has been filling with acidic water since pump dewatering of adjacent underground mines ceased in 1982.
Activity V: Technology Transfer
MSE is responsible for preparing and distributing reports for the MWTP. These include routine weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual reports; technical progress reports; and final reports for all MWTP activities. MSE also publicizes information developed under the MWTP in local, regional, and national publications. Other means of information transfer include public meetings, workshops, and symposiums.
Activity VI: Education Programs
Montana Tech has developed a post-graduate degree program with a mine waste emphasis. The program contains elements of geophysical, hydrogeological, environmental, geochemical, mining and mineral processing, extractive metallurgical, and biological engineering.
Management Roles and Responsibilities
Management of the MWTP is specified in the Interagency Agreement. The roles and responsibilities of each organization represented are described below. The organization chart for the MWTP is presented in Figure 1.
Environmental Protection Agency
EPA's National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL) in Cincinnati, Ohio, is responsible to EPAs Office of Research and Development for management oversight of project budget, technical direction, schedule, and scope.
Department of Energy
The Director of the DOE Office of Science and Technology, Office of Environmental Restoration and Waste Management, is the principal DOE representative on the Interagency Agreement Management Committee and provides program review and approval for the MWTP. MWTP project management is provided by the Federal Energy Technology Center (FETC), which has line responsibility for applying all applicable DOE regulations to the MWTP. MSE is responsible to FETC for management oversight concerning environmental, safety, and health requirements; regulatory actions; and operational conduct of MWTP projects at the MSE Testing Facility in Butte, Montana.
MSE Technology Applications, Inc.
MSE, under contract with DOE, is the principal performing contractor for the MWTP. The MWTP Program Manager is the point of contact for all mine waste activities. The Program Manager is responsible for Program management and coordination, Program status reporting, funds distribution, and communications. An MSE Project Engineer has been assigned to each of the MWTP projects and is responsible to the MWTP Program Manager for overall project direction, control, and coordination. Each Project Engineer is responsible for implementing the project within the approved scope, schedule, and cost. MSE also provides all staff necessary for completing Activities III and V and oversight of Activities II, III, IV, and VI.
Montana Tech of the University of Montana
As a subcontractor to MSE, Montana Tech is responsible to the MWTP Program Manager for all work performed under Activities I, II, IV, and VI. The responsibility for overall project direction, control, and coordination of the work to be completed by Montana Tech is assigned to the MWTP Montana Tech Project Manager.
Technical Integration Committee
The Technical Integration Committee is a nine-member committee established to review progress in meeting the goals of the MWTP and to alert the Interagency Agreement Management Committee to pertinent technical concerns. The committee provides information on the needs and requirements of the entire mining waste technology user community and assists with evaluation of technology demonstrations as well as technology transfer. This committee is comprised of representatives from both the public and private sectors.
MSE Technology Applications, Inc.
P.O. Box 4078
Butte, Montana 59702
Mine Waste Technology Program
Interagency Agreement Management Committee
IAG ID NO. DW89938513-01-0
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Research and Development
National Risk Management Research Laboratory
26 W. Martin Luther King Drive
Cincinnati, Ohio 46268
U.S. Department of Energy
Federal Energy Technology Center
P.O. Box 10940
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15236-0940
Contract No. DE-AC22-96EW96405