Monthly Archives: November 2019

Mining and the Ecosystem

We are all aware of our impact on the environment.  Is there a way forward in “green” mining?
Article sourced –
The effects of Mining on the Ecosystem
Updated April 24, 2017
By Jonas Martonas
“Ecosystems are affected by the physical perturbations of mining operations, as well as the chemical alterations in soil and water. Mining activities vary, but can include soil compaction and conversely, removal of the topsoil. These alterations disrupt nutrient dynamics by minimizing the availability of nitrogen and phosphorus, lower the pH through the acidification of the soil and can introduce toxic metals and acids. Depending on the scale and nature of the mining operation, these effects can be localized to the location of the mining or, through local hydrology, can extend to nearby aquatic systems, such as stream, wetlands and lakes.
Physical Effects
Soil compaction is one of the most severe effects mining has on ecosystems. Compaction is often the result of bulldozers and other pieces of large machinery moving across the landscape, often for many years while the mining is still in operation. As the soil is compacted, there are fewer pore spaces for oxygen and water to move through the soil profile, minimizing the potential for plant establishment. Also, as water is unable to percolate down through the soil, it inevitably will move across the surface of the landscape and increase the possibility of contaminating nearby aquatic systems, such as wetlands, streams and lakes. Conversely, the topsoil, which is typically the top 30 cm of soil, can be mined. This lowers the overall fertility of the soil and increases water movement through the soil and landscape
Chemical Effects
Mining operations often contaminate the soil with toxic heavy metals and acids. Acids can lower the pH of the soil, preventing plants and soil microorganisms from thriving, and can also react with various minerals in the soil that are required by plants, such as calcium and magnesium. The hydrogen ions from the acid absorb the soil particles, preventing other nutrients required by plants to remain in the soil. These chemical alterations can interact with soil compaction. Because water isn’t moving through the soil profile, some of the metals and acids can get carried away by the water, extending the mining effects throughout greater portions of the landscape. Elkins, Parker, Aldon and Whitford report in their article “Responses of Soil Biota to Organic Ammendments in Stripmine Spoils in Northwestern New Mexico,” in the “Journal of Environmental Quality,” 1984, that the addition of organic matter to mined lands can increase water retention in the soil, as well as the microbial process of nutrient accumulation and processing, potentially offsetting and minimizing the ecosystem effects from mining operations.
Plant Life
Ecosystems function because of the continuing interaction between the biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) components. Because each component affects how all others function, the depletion of soil nutrients and the acidification and compaction of the soil profile can limit the amount of plant life that can colonize a location. With reduced plant biomass, less carbon is being processed via photosynthesis, which leads to less oxygen production, less standing biomass and reduced transfer and cycling of nutrients. Also, plants are key regulators in an ecosystem’s water cycling as they utilize moisture in photosynthesis and transpire water vapor back into the atmosphere. As such, the absence of plants in an ecosystem can inhibit the multiple functions and services commonly provided.”
Article from ThermoFisher Scientific
Green Mining: Can It Really Happen? Part 1
By Esa Nummi
“The environmental impact of mining activities is a key issue concerning the industry. The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, enacted in 1977, provides many regulations to ensure mine sites are operated, and any environmental damage is remediated, in a responsible way. Read Mining and the Environment: What Happens When A Mine Closes? to learn about other U.S. regulations governing the mining industry and some of the issues they address. Remediation is just one part of reducing the environmental impact of mining; here we present a summary of some projects underway to initiate more responsible mining technologies, or “green mining.” In the article, Eco-friendly Mining Trends for 2014, Joshua Kirkey, Communications Advisor for Natural Resources Canada (NRC), defines green mining as  “technologies, best practices and mine processes that are implemented as a means to reduce the environmental impacts associated with the extraction and processing of metals and minerals. Examples include the reduction of greenhouse gases, selective mining approaches to reduce the ecological footprint, and reduction in chemical use. Green mining technologies and practices offer superior performance with respect to energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions and the use of chemicals.” The article points out that green technologies are especially needed to address the tremendous amount of energy and water used by traditional mining methods, to improve mine closure processes, and that these practices need to be developed in a way that integrates well with current technologies. MIT’s Mission 2016: The Future of Strategic Natural Resources website addresses the need for more widespread Environmentally Sensitive “Green” Mining standards and techniques. The site presents a plan for improving efficiency and decreasing the environmental impact of mining is broken up into the following categories:
Shutting down illegal and unregulated mines
Choosing environmentally friendly general mining processes. In situ mining, for example, can be more environmentally friendly than underground mining and is cheaper than many mining methods.
Implementing recently discovered green mining technologies. These include mining from tailings, dust suppression techniques, liquid membrane emulsion technology, sulphuric acid leaching extraction process, impermeable tailings storage, and improved energy efficiency by using better ventilation systems and diesel engines
Cleaning up the sites of shut-down mines using R2 technology to recover metals while improving the condition of the land
Reevaluating cut-off grades to reduce waste and increase efficiency
Research and development of green mining technology in the areas of processing, clean water, and energy efficiency.
Mining Global’s article, Top 10 Ways to Make Mines More Environmentally Friendly echoes some of the suggestions put forth by Mission 2016:
Closing illegal and unregulated mines
Scrap mining and recycling
Better legislation and regulations
Improving environmental performance
Accurate tallying of toxic mining waste
Building from reusable waste
Closing and reclaiming sites of shut-down mines
Investing in research and development of Green Mining Technology
Replenishing the environment
Improving the efficiency of manufacturing processes.”
Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Air quality research could improve public health

Here are a few articles on air quality – I trust you will enjoy the read!  Have a great day!!
Articles from
Air quality research could improve public health in West Africa
by David Kubarek
Nov 2018 – Link to main article
“Research that models nearly 60 years of air quality in West Africa could lend insights into better forecasting a hazard that affects more than 350 million people in the region, according to an international team of researchers.
As part of a larger effort to understand air quality, Gregory Jenkins, Penn State, modeled meteorological events occurring during the winter months to better understand the variables contributing to long-term dust events, which are a public health hazard. Understanding this could improve dust forecasting.
Analyzing dust concentrations at 12-hour intervals, the model revealed factors driving the region’s dust events.
“It looks like dust is not just a constant variable over West Africa,” Jenkins said. “There are periods and times when there is definitely more dust. Over the last 15 years, the model suggests dust concentrations have gone down. What’s forcing the dust events? It looks like the North-Atlantic oscillation (NAO) is a big player.”
Jenkins said the NAO is one factor driving dust levels, but the model suggests other factors are at play. More research will shed light on these factors, he added.
The model targeted the Bodele Depression, which is the world’s largest dust source, as well as lesser, yet significant, sources in other parts of the Sahara Desert. The World Health Organization links airborne dust to increased cases of cancer, asthma and other diseases.
The research, published in GeoHealth, found a lot of variation in dust events and some troubling findings.
In Kano State, Nigeria, home to 9.4 million people, 42 of the 90 days of the 1990 season had unhealthy air quality by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. In 1983, 35 days were unhealthy and 10 days in 2012. Similarly, in Senegal’s capital of Dakar, where more than 1 million people live, 52 of the 90 days of the 1990 season had unhealthy air quality. In 1983, 41 days were unhealthy and 39 days in 2012.
“There’s something driving this kind of variation and ultimately, exposure,” Jenkins said. “Public health officials need to know this data. In some years, half of the season had unhealthy air. If you have asthma, it’s more days than that, with air quality standards for people with respiratory issues occurring at lower dust concentrations.”
Jenkins said in a region with the greatest threat from dust, the fewest safeguards are in place. Ground measurements, which are commonplace throughout the world, are nonexistent across Africa. Public health data also is sparse, making it difficult to understand the true impact of dust. Research published in Nature points to a “robust relationship between air quality and infant mortality in Africa.” The region’s population is expected to double to 700 million by the year 2050.
To address the lack of reliable data in West Africa, Jenkins has deployed research-based air-quality monitors throughout West Africa—Senegal, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast—and is working with health officials to gather more health data. Partnering with microbiologists at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal, researchers collected dust samples to find which pathogens were present on the dust particles.
Jenkins is working on companion research for the summer months, where dust reaches higher altitudes and travels into part of the U.S., the Caribbean and other areas.
His research aims to address what air quality means for the region: How dust affects the public; the strains on health care systems; and how citizens and their governments can be educated and prepared to deal with the issue. He said the solution is interdisciplinary, which is why his meteorology background is helpful when venturing into the public health research.
“My ancestors came from West Africa. I’ve worked there on the ground. I see the level of poverty and for me it’s not just crunching numbers or running models, it’s actually serving a higher goal of helping those who have less,” Jenkins said. “I don’t feel there’s any reason why a child should die from respiratory disease if there are ways to avoid that. We don’t want that for our children. If there are ways that we can help, we do it.””
Study of African dust transport to South America reveals air quality impacts
by University of Miami  2014
“A new study that analyzed concentrations of African dust transported to South America shows large seasonal peaks in winter and spring. These research findings offer new insight on the overall human health and air quality impacts of African dust, including the climate change-induced human health effects that are expected to occur from increased African dust emissions in the coming decades.
Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and colleagues analyzed the dust concentrations in aerosol samples from two locations, French Guiana’s capital city Cayenne and the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe, to understand the amount, source regions, and seasonal patterns of airborne dust that travels across the North Atlantic Ocean.
The study showed clear seasonal cycles at both locations – with peak concentrations at Cayenne from January to May and from May to September at Guadeloupe. In addition, the results showed that dust concentrations during peak periods exceeded World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines. The airborne dust on Guadeloupe exceeded WHO air guidelines on 258 of 2799 days (9.2%) and on Cayenne they were exceeded on 246 of 2765 days (9.0%).
“The dust concentrations measured on Cayenne were far greater than any those of any major European city from pollutants,” said Joseph Prospero, UM Rosenstiel School professor emeritus and lead author of the study. “The fine-particle dust concentrations exceed the WHO air quality standard and could have broader implications on respiratory health throughout the region, including in the Caribbean and the southeastern United States.”
Persistent winds across Africa’s 3.5-million square mile Sahara Desert lifts mineral-rich dust into the atmosphere where it travels the more than 5,000-mile journey towards the U.S., South America and Caribbean. Seasonal dust plumes are linked to changes in dust source regions and changes in large-scale weather patterns. The dust can penetrate deep into the human respiratory system due to its fine particle size, according to Prospero.
According to the study’s authors, quantifying the amount and sources of atmospheric dust concentrations is also important to improve future climate change predictions.”
Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.