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Open AccessArticle

Environmental Impact of Mine Exploitation: An Early Predictive Methodology Based on Ore Mineralogy and Contaminant Speciation

1
Institut de Recherche en Mines et Environnement (IRME), Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT), Rouyn-Noranda, QC J9X 5E4, Canada
2
GeoRessources, ENSG, Université de Lorraine (UL), 54500 Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy, France
3
Agnico Eagle Mines Limited, Rouyn-Noranda, QC J0Y 1C0, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Minerals 2019, 9(7), 397; https://doi.org/10.3390/min9070397
Received: 27 April 2019 / Revised: 24 June 2019 / Accepted: 25 June 2019 / Published: 28 June 2019
Mining wastes containing sulfide minerals can generate contaminated waters as acid mine drainage (AMD) and contaminated neutral drainage (CND). This occurs when such minerals are exposed to oxygen and water. Nowadays, mineralogical work—when it is done—is independently and differentially done according to the needs of the exploration, geotechnics, metallurgy or environment department, at different stages in the mine development process. Moreover, environmental impact assessments (EIA) are realized late in the process and rarely contain pertinent mineralogical characterization on ores and wastes, depending on countries’ regulations. Contaminant-bearing minerals are often not detected at an early stage of the mine life cycle and environmental problems could occur during production or once the mine has come to the end of its productive life. This work puts forward a more reliable methodology, based on mineralogical characterization of the ore at the exploration stages, which, in turn, will be useful for each stage of the mining project and limit the unforeseen environmental or metallurgical issues. Three polymetallic sulfide ores and seven gold deposits from various origins around the world were studied. Crushed ore samples representing feed ore of advanced projects and of production mines were used to validate the methodology with realistic cases. The mineralogical methodology consisted in chemical assays and XRD, optical microscopy, SEM and EPMA were done. Five of the ores were also submitted to geochemical tests to compare mineralogical prediction results with their experimental leaching behavior. Major, minor, and trace minerals were identified, quantified, and the bearing minerals were examined for the polluting elements (and valuables). The main conclusion is that detailed mineralogical work can avert redundant work, save time and money, and allow detection of the problems at the beginning of the mine development phase, improving waste management and closure planning. View Full-Text
Keywords: environmental mineralogy; exploration; contaminant; geochemical behavior environmental mineralogy; exploration; contaminant; geochemical behavior
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Chopard, A.; Marion, P.; Mermillod-Blondin, R.; Plante, B.; Benzaazoua, M. Environmental Impact of Mine Exploitation: An Early Predictive Methodology Based on Ore Mineralogy and Contaminant Speciation. Minerals 2019, 9, 397.

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