Field Methods for Sampling and Analysis of Environmental Samples for Unstable and Selected Stable Constituents
W.H. Ficklin, E.L. Mosier, 1997. "Field Methods for Sampling and Analysis of Environmental Samples for Unstable and Selected Stable Constituents", The Environmental Geochemistry of Mineral Deposits: Part A: Processes, Techniques, and Health Issues Part B: Case Studies and Research Topics, G.S. Plumlee, M.J. Logsdon, L.F. Filipek
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Water is an important agent in the chemical weathering of mineral deposits, mine tailings, waste rock, settling ponds and landfills, and in the dispersion of contaminants from these sources into the aquatic environment. The vast numbers of possible mineral assemblages and the complex chemical reactions that accompany mineral-water interactions result in a limitless variety of fluid compositions. For example, the variability in compositions of mine-drainage waters from a variety of active and inactive metal mines with diverse geologic characteristics are listed in Table 12.1.
In assessing water-quality characteristics, considerable care must be administered during the collection, preservation, and analysis of water samples. Analytical results from an improperly collected sample are at best questionable and at worst worthless. An excellent manual that documents field data collection and analysis procedures used by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for water and fluvial sediments has been published by Fishman and Friedman (1989). Other equally authoritative manuals on water analysis are available (American Society for Testing and Materials, 1992; American Public Health Association et al., 1992; United States Environmental Protection Agency, 1983). The purpose of this chapter is to describe a number of field sampling and analysis techniques that are commonly used in acid-mine drainage and related mining-environmental water studies. Many of the techniques described here are for on-site measurements; others are for analysis of selected constituents that can be determined in the field, but that are more practically determined in the laboratory. For each method given, the general points covered are application, principle of the method, apparatus and reagents required, and a detailed description of the method including interferences, sample collection and preservation protocol, and reporting units and significant figures.
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The Environmental Geochemistry of Mineral Deposits: Part A: Processes, Techniques, and Health Issues Part B: Case Studies and Research Topics
Environmental issues have become important, if not critical, factors in the success of proposed mining projects worldwide. In an ongoing and intense public debate about mining and its perceived environmental impacts, the mining industry points out that there are many examples of environmentally responsible mining currently being carried out (e.g., Todd and Struhsacker, 1997). The industry also emphasizes that the majority of mining-environmental problems facing society today are legacies from the past when environmental consequences of mining were poorly understood, not regulated, or viewed as secondary in importance to societal needs for the resources being extracted. On the other hand, environmental organizations (e.g., Mineral Policy Center, 1999) point to recent environmental problems, such as those stemming from open-pit gold mining at Summitville, Colorado, in the late 1980s (see Summitville summaries in Posey et al., 1995; Danielson and Alms, 1995; Williams, 1995; Plumlee, 1999), or those associated with a 1998 tailings dam collapse in Spain (van Geen and Chase, 1998), as an indication that environmental problems (whether accidental or resulting from inappropriate practices) can still occur in modern mining. Recent legislation imposing a moratorium on new mining in Wisconsin, and banning new mining in Montana using cyanide heap-leach extraction methods further underscore the seriousness of the debate and its implications for mineral resource extraction.
In this debate, one certainty exists: there will always be a need for mineral resources in developed and developing societies. Although recycling and substitution will help meet some of the worlds resource needs, mining will always be relied upon to meet the remaining needs. The challenge will be to continue to improve the ways in which mining is done so as to minimize its environmental effects.
The earth, engineering, and life sciences (which we group here under the term “earth-system sciences,” or ESS for short) provide an ample toolkit that can be drawn upon in the quest for environmentally friendly mineral resource development. The papers in this two-part volume provide many details on tools in the scientific toolkit, and how these tools can be used to better understand, anticipate, prevent, mitigate, and remediate the environmental effects of mining and mineral processing.
As with any toolkit, it is the professional’s responsibility to choose the tool(s) best suited to a specific job. By describing the tools now available, we do not mean to imply that all of these tools need even be considered at any given site, nor that