Testing and modeling the influence of reclamation and control methods for reducing nonpoint mercury emissions associated with industrial open pit gold mines

Matthieu B. Miller, Mae S. Gustin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Industrial gold mining is a significant source of mercury (Hg) emission to the atmosphere. To investigate ways to reduce these emissions, reclamation and dust and mercury control methods used at open pit gold mining operations in Nevada were studied in a laboratory setting. Using this information along with field data, and building off previous work, total annual Hg emissions were estimated for two active gold mines in northern Nevada. Results showed that capping mining waste materials with a low-Hg substrate can reduce Hg emissions from 50 to nearly 100%. The spraying of typical dust control solutions often results in higher Hg emissions, especially as materials dry after application. The concentrated application of a dithiocarbamate Hg control reagent appears to reduce Hg emissions, but further testing mimicking the actual distribution of this chemical within an active leach solution is needed to make a more definitive assessment. Laboratory and field measurements of mercury flux from materials typically found at large open pit gold mines in Nevada indicate that non-point-source mercury emissions are a significant component of total mercury emissions, but that these nonpoint emissions can be significantly reduced by postmining capping and reclamation, and possibly by chemical treatments of leach ore and tailings waste.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-693
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Air and Waste Management Association
Volume63
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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