Lottermoser, BG 2012, 'Environmental indicators for acid mine drainage: advances in knowledge and challenges ahead', in AB Fourie & M Tibbett (eds), Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Mine Closure
, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 3-12, https://doi.org/10.36487/ACG_rep/1208_01_Lottermoser
Environmental indicators are measures to track changes in the quality of the air, water, land and ecological systems. At mine sites, such indicators provide information on conditions and processes that exist or may develop during the life of mine phases and after mine closure. The objectives of this contribution are to review predictive environmental indicators for acid mine drainage (AMD) and to illustrate our advances in knowledge and the challenges ahead.
Since the first scientific observations on AMD processes at mine sites hundreds of years ago, we have gained some phenomenal knowledge on indicators and their application in life of mine planning. Yet, today’s AMD indicators still have serious limitations, are riddled with uncertainties that are hard to quantify, or only allow predictions that represent the best estimate of what will happen in the future. The time has come to drastically improve our scientific efforts to precisely predict impacts and closure liabilities on all scales.
The route to greater confidence in the prediction of AMD processes is not through more sophisticated modelling. Our skills at modelling have run ahead of our understanding of the complex mineralogical, geochemical and microbiological processes leading to AMD, and our ability to test models against real data from the laboratory and the field. Improvements will come from better environmental tests and better understanding of the underlying processes at individual mine sites.
There is reason for optimism that the required progress is possible. Such optimism is based on the phenomenal advances in our ability to predict AMD processes and impacts using environmental indicators. However, detailed studies on the design and validity of new predictive AMD indicators are necessary if we are to achieve more cost-effective mine closure and reduce environmental liabilities in the long term. Such progress also requires the application of AMD indicators at the beginning of the mine life cycle and well before mine closure. In future, life of mine plans including closure plans should be based on less verbiage and fragmented environmental knowledge, a greater use of scientific data and environmental indicators, and a much improved knowledge of environmental processes. This has to include the early use of AMD indicators, most appropriately from the exploration stage onwards.
Allan, J.G. (1998) Decommissioning in the Australian mining industry setting the scene, in Proceedings of Workshop on Environmental Issues in Decommissioning of Mine Sites, C.J. Asher and L.C. Bell (eds), 9–10 March 1998, Brisbane, Queensland, Australian Centre for Mining Environmental Research, Kenmore, Australia, pp. 1–9.
Asher, C.J. and Bell, L.C. (eds) (1998) Proceedings of the Workshop on Indicators of Ecosystem Rehabilitation Success, Australian Centre for Mining Environmental Research, Kenmore, Australia, 151 p.
Cato, L. (1995) The integration of environmental research and technology in the mining industry—case histories from CRA, The Business of Ecology: Australian Organisations Tackling Environmental Issues, L. Cato (ed), Allen & Unwin, Sydney, Australia, pp. 62–67.
Dowd, P.J. (2006) The business case for the prevention of acid drainage, in Proceedings of the 5th Australian Workshop on Acid and Metalliferous Drainage, L.C. Bell and R.W. McLean (eds), 29–31 August, Fremantle, Western Australia, Australian Centre for Minerals Extension and Research, Kenmore, Australia, pp. 1–10.
GARD Guide (2012) Global Acid Rock Drainage Guide, Viewed 5 May 2012,
Grosser Generalstab (ed) (1900) Moltkes Militaerische Werke, E.S. Mittler und Sohn, Berlin, Vol. 2, Part 2, pp. 33–40 (in German).
International Network for Acid Prevention (INAP) (2012), Viewed 5 May 2012,
Jasper, D. (2007) Rehabilitation: Indicators and monitoring, Encyclopedia of Soil Science, W. Chesworth (ed), Taylor & Francis, Abingdon, UK, pp. 1460–1463.
Jennings, S.R., Neuman, D.R. and Blicker, P.S. (2008) Acid mine drainage and effects on fish health and ecology: A review, Reclamation Research Group Publication, Bozeman, MT, United States, 29 p.
Karpenko, V. and Norris, J.A. (2002) Vitriol in the history of chemistry, Chemicke Listy 96, pp. 997–1005.
Lottermoser, B.G. (2010) Mine wastes: Characterization, treatment, and environmental impacts, 3rd edition, Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg, 400 p.
Lottermoser, B.G. (2011) Colonisation of the rehabilitated Mary Kathleen uranium mine site (Australia) by Calotropis procera: Toxicity risk to grazing animals, Journal of Geochemical Exploration, Vol. 111, pp. 39–46.
Lottermoser, B.G. and Ashley, P.M. (2005) Tailings dam seepage at the rehabilitated Mary Kathleen uranium mine, Australia, Journal of Geochemical Exploration 85, pp. 119–137.
Lottermoser, B.G., Ashley, P.M. and Costelloe, M.T. (2005) Contaminant dispersion at the rehabilitated Mary Kathleen uranium mine, Australia, Environmental Geology 48, pp. 748–761.
Nordstrom, D.K. (2009) Acid rock drainage and climate change, Journal of Geochemical Exploration Vol. 100, pp. 97–104.
Parbhakar-Fox, A. and Lottermoser, B.G. (2011) Predictive Environmental indicators in mining: Review of the literature and current best practices, Technical Report No. 2, Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction, Brisbane, Australia, 142 p.
Parbhakar-Fox, A., Edraki, M., Walters, S. and Bradshaw, D. (2011) Development of a textural index for the prediction of acid rock drainage, Minerals Engineering, Vol. 24, pp. 1277–1287.
Price, W.A. (2009) Prediction manual for drainage chemistry from sulphidic geologic materials, MEND report 1.20.1, CANMET Mining and Mineral Sciences Laboratories, Smithers, Canada, 579 p.
Rayne, S., Forest, K. and Friesen, K.J. (2009) Analytical framework for a risk-based estimation of climate change effects on mine site runoff water quality, Mine Water and the Environment 28, pp. 124–135.
Salkield, L.U. (1987) A technical history of the Rio Tinto mines: Some notes on exploitation from pre-Phoenician times to the 1950s, The Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, London, UK, 114 p.
Tremblay, G.A. and Hogan, C.M. (eds) (2001) Mine Environment Neutral Drainage (MEND) Manual 5.4.2d: Prevention and Control, Canada Centre for Mineral and Energy Technology, Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, 352 p.
Vincent, M. (2011) War gaming may just be the answer to solving South Africa’s own Chernobyl, Deloitte, viewed 5 May 2012, www.deloitte.com.
White III, W.W., Lapakko, K.A. and Cox, R.L. (1999) Static test methods most commonly used to predict acid mine drainage: practical guidelines for use and interpretation, The Environmental Geochemistry of Mineral Deposits Part A: Processes, Techniques, and Health Issues, G.S. Plumlee and M.J. Lodgson (eds), Reviews of Economic Geology, Vol. 6A, Society of Economic Geologists, Littleton, United States, pp. 325–338.