Listen to environmental geochemist Kendra Zamzow, Ph.D. and Jill Yordy of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center discuss how acid mine drainage affects water chemistry and environmental health. Acid rock drainage is one of the major sources of toxic metals associated with mining. When waste rock excavated from the mine is exposed to air and water, it chemically reacts to form sulfuric acid, essentially dissolving the surface of the rock. Metals leach out from the rock and may contaminate both surface and ground water. Metal leaching of some elements like arsenic and selenium can also occur without acid. Direct exposure to these metals can be harmful to fish and people, and indirectly metal reactions can lead to changes in water quality that affect aquatic habitat.
NOTE: New Resources added 5/1/14 by Kendra Zamzow, PhD and Jill Yordy
Organizations with more information:
- The Northern Center
- Alaskans for Responsible Mining
- Center for Science in Public Participation (CSP2)
- GroundTruth Trekking
- ACAT Mining Fact Sheets
- www.PebbleScience.org: acid drainage
Documentary: Where the Heck is Donlin?
- Formosa mine, OR: EPA cleanup
- Beale Mountain mine, MT: US Forest Service documents
- Mt. Nansen, Yukon
- Silverton, CO (news article)
- Leviathan mine
- Alaska mines
- CSP2 fact sheet: Formation, impacts, and remediation of acid rock drainage – How does acid rock drainage start?
- Price, William A. “Challenges posed by metal leaching and acid rock drainage at closed mines.” (2003).
- Predicted vs. Actual performance of three mines near the Carmacks Copper Heap Leach Project, available at Yukon Water Board.
- Austalian 2007 Best Practices Tailings Handbook
- Two Million Tonnes a Day – A Mine Waste Primer by MiningWatch Canada, December 2009
Dr. Zamzow is an environmental biogeochemist and the Alaska representative for the Center for Science in Public Participation (CSP2). She specializes in microbial interactions with trace metals, environmental toxicology, and processes relating to acid rock drainage, metal leaching, and water quality.
Since joining CSP2, Dr. Zamzow has provided technical analysis of projects including copper heap leach closure, arsenic chemistry in a tailings impoundment, mercury release from thermal processing of gold, potential for acid drainage, and chemistry of underground coal gasification. She has commented on regulatory issues including federal gold mine mercury air emission regulations and Alaska coal and water quality regulations.
Recently she completed an American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellowship at the EPA Office of Research and Development in Washington, DC. She currently lives in Chickaloon, Alaska.
Jill Yordy works for the Northern Alaska Environmental Center as their Clean Water and Mining Program Director to advocate for environmental conservation and sustainable resource management in Alaska. Jill originally hails from the front range of Colorado but has called Fairbanks her home since August of 2009. Having spent her early childhood in a tiny mountain town without paved roads, she has had a lifelong relationship with wilderness. She has a BA in Anthropology with minors in Museum Studies and Classical Studies from Luther College in Iowa. Since arriving in Fairbanks for Master’s level studies in archaeology and stable isotope research at UAF she has traveled all over interior and northern Alaska, worked for an environmental testing firm, and fallen in love with Alaska.