Mining water management for reduced environmental impact

The management of mining water is a critical environmental concern. Mining is an essential function because of all the valuable products it produces, including precious metals and gems, bulk minerals like bauxite and limestone, important refineable metal products, and coal. However, if not well managed, mining operations have historically demonstrated a high potential to cause adverse environmental impacts because they reverse the geological processes that, over time, usually stabilized the environments in which the minerals are located.

Water is a factor in many mining and separation processes, so mining water management, use and release are key parts of reducing negative environmental impacts. This column identifies citations where information can be accessed on processes and the regulatory controls that are covered in “Effluent Guidelines for Mineral Mining, Ore Mining and Coal.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are required for these operations. Its websites represent a huge body of information that is essential for compliance with NPDES permits and requirements in the specific subcategories.

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