Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center
Emerging Environmental Geochemical Challenges for Future Mining
Project chief: Robert Seal, firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-648-6290
Statement of problem: An emerging challenge for future mining is the growing need for assessments of potential impacts of mining on the quality of water and sediment in surrounding aquatic ecosystems.
These assessments require a thorough understanding of element geochemistry, including the speciation of dissolved and particulate phases and factors that influence their mobility, bioavailability, and toxicity on local to regional scales. Such fundamental biogeochemical information is integrated with site-specific conditions to identify possible environmental consequences during resource development.
The following current trends point out the need for comprehensive assessments and successful strategies that can mitigate future impacts of mining:
- Increased demand for critical elements, such as rare earths (REE), for which little is known about geochemical mobility and toxicity in terrestrial environments;
- Development of lower grade deposits that generate significantly larger volumes of waste materials, which may pose problems for containment and downstream contamination;
- The need for predictive tools that define relations among the development of specific types of mineral deposits, given geologic and climatic settings, and potential impacts on aquatic ecosystems.
The Emerging Environmental Geochemical Challenges for Future Mining project involves three proposed tasks that will
- address these emerging needs;
- advance our understanding of the potential environmental consequences of ongoing and future mining; and
- provide necessary information to enable effective planning by the mining and regulatory communities.