The cause and effects of acid mine drainage

Essay by Bobby Gene Meadows IUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, May 1996

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Imagine going fishing on a cool Autumn day, the trees are all different shades of orange, brown and red and the birds are singing their beautiful songs, but their is a serious problem because when you arrive at the river all plant and animal life are gone. This is by no means a recent phenomenon. This is due to the effects of acid rock drainage (ARD). This is a problem that has been occurring since ancient times, but it was not until the 1800's when fast growing industrialization and heavy mining that it caught alot of attention.

Acid rock drainage is the term used to describe leachate, seepage, or drainage that has been affected by the natural oxidation of sulfur minerals contained in rock which is exposed to air and water. The major components of ARD formation are reactive sulfide minerals, oxygen, and water.

Biological activity and reactions is what is responsible for the production of ARD. These reactions make low pH water that has the ability to mobilize heavy metals contained in geological materials with which it comes in contact. 'ARD causes a devastating impact on the quality of the ground or surface water it discharges to. (Ellison & Hutchison)'


Within the mining process there are several sources that cause ARD. No matter what activities occur, ARD usually occurs when certain conditions are met. These conditions are the factors that limit or accelerate the release of ARD. The initial release of ARD can occur anywhere from a few months to many decades after the sulfide containing material is disturbed or deposited. ARD has been associated with mines since mining began. When ARD occurs due to the effects of mining it is called...