Skip to main content

Acid Mine Drainage

Learn about acid mine drainage formation and methodologies to control and treat (both chemical and passive) acid water and acid soils.

Acid Mine Drainage Guide

WVU Extension Specialists can help understand acid mine drainage formation and methodologies to control and treat water and soils.

What is Acid Mine Drainage & How to Identify It

Acid mine drainage empties into muddy water.

Acid mine drainage forms when sulfide minerals are exposed to oxidizing conditions in coal and metal mining, highway construction and other large-scale excavations. There are many types of sulfide minerals. Iron sulfides common in coal regions are predominately pyrite and marcasite (FeS2), but other metals may be complexed with sulfides like chalcopyrite (CuFeS2), covellite (CuS), galena (PbS) and sphalerite (ZnS). Pyrite commonly occurs with these other metal sulfides thereby causing AMD where copper, lead and zinc are mined.

Upon exposure to water and oxygen, sulfide minerals oxidize to form acidic, sulfate-rich drainage. Metal composition and concentrations in AMD depend on the type and quantity of sulfide minerals present. The drainage quality emanating from underground mines or backfills of surface mines is dependent on the acid-producing (sulfide) and alkaline (carbonate) minerals contained in the disturbed rock. In general, sulfide-rich and carbonate-poor materials produce acidic drainage. In contrast, alkaline-rich materials, even with significant sulfide concentrations, often produce alkaline conditions in water.

Acidity in AMD is comprised of mineral acidity (iron, aluminum, manganese and other metals depending on the specific metal sulfide) and hydrogen ion acidity. Approximately 20,000 kilometers (or roughly 12,400 miles) of streams and rivers in the United States are degraded by AMD. About 90% of the AMD reaching streams originates in abandoned surface and deep mines. Since no company or individual claims responsibility for reclaiming abandoned mine lands, no treatment of the AMD occurs and continual contamination of surface and groundwater resources results.

Read the full article at ResearchGate

Learn about Acid Mine Drainage

Acid Mine Drainage Remediation Guide

A water treatment facility processing acid mine drainage.

Chemical Treatment

Get information about possible chemicals to use for treatment of acid mine drainage, the conditions where each chemical is most effective, and costs. Sludge creation and handling is also covered.

A passive wetland works to treat acid mine drainage.

Passive Treatment

Learn about various techniques, where and when certain types of passive treatment options can be used for acid mine drainage, as well as design considerations, costs, and treatment effectiveness.

A dump truck unloads a load of fill from a mine site.

Prediction & Control

Before mining, techniques can predict sulfide materials, and acid mine drainage pollution. Methods can minimize the exposure of sulfide minerals, manage the water, and to control the formation of acid.