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Faith Gionet

on 13 May 2013

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By Faith Environmental Affects of
Tailings Ponds Tailings Storing Tailings The challenges associated with tailings storage are ever increasing. Advances in technology allow lower grade ores to be exploited, generating higher volumes of waste that require safe storage. Environmental regulations are also advancing, placing more requirements on the mining industry, particularly with regard to tailings storage practices. This ultimately places added pressure on the operators of a tailings facility who carry out the day to day roles of tailings discharge and water management. Affects of Tailings Tailings consist of ground rock and process materials that are generated in a mine processing plant. Mechanical and chemical processes are used to extract the desired product from the run of the mine ore and produce a waste stream known as tailings. The unrecoverable and uneconomic metals, minerals, chemicals, organics and process water are discharged, normally as slurry, to a final storage area commonly known as a Tailings Management Facility (TMF) or Tailings Storage Facility (TSF). There are many different environmental affects of tailings some of which include; water pollution, heavy metals, decreasing in wildlife, air pollution. Water Pollution Tailings ponds can have a very bad affect on ground water and surrounding areas of water if protective measures are not taken. The result can be unnaturally high levels of some chemicals, such as arsenic, sulfuric acid, and mercury . This can be lethal if a certain amount of any of these chemicals are ingested. When the water is tested if the heath unit finds that any of the levels of these chemicals are unusually high they will put out a notice. Heavy Metals Wildlife Air Pollution Long term storage of tailings can use serious damage because of all the heavy metals in the tailings. Water in the mine containing dissolved heavy metals such as lead may leak into local groundwater, contaminating it. Also for any animals that manage to find there way onto the site where the tailing pond is, it can be deadly. If the animal ingests any of the plant life or water from or around the pond, it can die of heavy metal poisoning. Open-pit mines produce a lot of dust, and the liquid waste in tailings dams, when dried in the atmosphere, can also be a source of dust for people living nearby. Increased vehicle traffic near mines kicks up dust and pollutes the air with exhaust fumes. Gold, aluminum, nickel and copper,may need to be further refinded this takes place at a smelter, a kind of furnace in which the processed ore is subjected to very high temperatures in order to melt the metal and release it from other materials in the ore. Smelters also release tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The impact that tailing ponds can have on the wildlife can be deadly. Many wildlife species are highly dependent on vegetation growing in natural drainage areas. But with the toxic chemicals near by, any ingested vegetation can be lethal to the wildlife. Also if the tailings pond is not properly dealt with after, it will take decades before it is suitable habit for any form of wildlife.
Overall there are many environmental affects of tailings, or mining in general.
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