Mining and Radioactive Wastes

Mining and Radioactive Wastes

By Diana and Rowena


~ What is mining

~ What gets mined

Table of Contents

~ What is it mined for

~ Geological problems

associated with mining

~ Mining wastes

~ More info on tailings

~ Acid mine drainage (AMD)

~ Solving the Problem

~Recovering Victims

Nuclear Wastes

~Works Cited


What is Mining

The process in

which minerals,

which are found

in chunks of

rocks called ore,

can be extracted

from the Earth’s

surface and then

processed into

useful material.

What gets mined

Every year in the U.S. we mine:

~1600 kg of Aluminum ore (a.k.a. bauxite)

~453, 000 kg of Sand and Gravel

~25,400 kg of Iron ore

~680 kg of Copper ore

~12,200 kg of Salt

~226, 000 kg of Coal

~11,300 kg of Clay

~360 kg of Lead

~360 kg of Zinc

~Silver ore

~Gold ore



Coal ore

What for

~Iron – steel products

~Aluminum – naval vessels

~Copper - motors

~Silver - jewelry

~Clay –vegetable oil

~Gypsum – potting soil

~Gold -wires

~Zinc –steel coatings

~Lead - batteries

~Phosphate –plant fertilizer

~Coal -electricity

~Sand & Gravel roads

~Salt - detergent




So mining is fine and dandy, right

There are many problems associated with mining.

Geological problems include:

~scars on the land surface

~when a mine is over-mined,

the ground above it may

collapse and cause:

~houses to tilt

~sewer lines to crack

~gas mains to break

~and it will mess up

underground water


So the Earth has some boo-boos.

What else is going on

~Because only the mineral in

the ore is used, mining

generates a lot of waste. The

waste that is thrown away is

called tailings.

~Did you know that two gold

rings generate 6 tons of waste

Tailings are dirt right And God

made dirt so dirt won’t hurt, right

Well, tailings contain

sulfides such as FeS 2

which bacteria from the

thiobacilus family love

living off of. This bacteria

transforms sulfur from the

tailings into sulfuric acid

using this reaction:

2FeS 2 (s) + 7.5 O 2 (g) + 7H 2 O (l) 2Fe(OH) 3 (s) + 4H 2 SO 4 (aq)

Wow, how does that hurt me

~Acid mine drainage (AMD) is the process in which rain

water flows through mines & mine wastes. The rain

water carries that acid around which contaminates our

water supplies.

This might cause

lakes to have a pH

of 3 or less which

causes aquatic life

to die.

~Mining has polluted

40% of Western


Dead Fish

How can we solve the problem

Canals and ditches are constructed around the mines to divert

rainwater from entering the mines.

Some things that are added to water to improve the water quality


~Flocculants help dissolved particles sink

better. This helps improve the turbidity


~Wood waste like juniper fibers will react and

remove some of the unwanted metals from

the water.

~ New types of bacteria have been found to

be able to eat or decompose unwanted

particles that are traced in mine waste.

Who’s going to do that

Superfund is a branch of the EPA and they designate

places that are in dire need of cleaning based on the

site’s risk to human health.

They invest


money, hire a

few chemists,

get a crew, and

then clean up

those nasty


Recovering Victims on

Superfund include:

Former ore

extraction areas

Elizabeth Mine,


Created Wetland for

AMD Treatment

Mammoth Mine, CA.

Former Copper


- Electrowinning

Yerington, Nevada

Superfund Sites


Radioactive Waste

– General Information

– Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials

– Mill Tailings Waste

–Mixed Waste

– Low Level Radioactive Waste

– High Level Radioactive Waste

– Transuranic Waste

General Info

• Definition: “something that is no longer useful

and that contains radioactive isotopes in varying

concentrations and forms”

• Also called nuclear waste

Radioactive materials are used “in a wide variety

of applications”

– Ex: generating electricity, medical research

• Generated by federal government, electrical

utilities, private industry, hospitals, and


• Emit energy as isotopes decay to more stable


– Alpha particles, beta particles, neutrons,

gamma rays

– Negative effects include sickness, cancer,

birth defects

More Info

• Hazard posed to environment determined by the

“amount of energy that a particular radioactive

isotope emits, the timeframe over which it emits

that energy, and the type of contact with


• Object of waste disposal is to give it time to


• Major categories: highlevel waste (HLW),

lowlevel waste (LLW), transuranic waste (TRU),

uranium mine and mill tailings, mixed wastes,

and naturally occurring radioactive materials

Naturally Occurring Radioactive

Materials (NORM):

• Found in earth’s crust

– Ex: radon, radium, uranium

• There are “no federal regulations

pertaining directly to NORM containing


Mill Tailings Waste:

• Definition: “residues remaining after the

processing of natural ore to extract

uranium and thorium”

• disposal: covering pile with a material that

prevents radon from escaping into the

atmosphere and soil, rocks, and other

materials to prevent erosion.

Mixed Waste:

• contains radioactive and hazardous waste

• consists of Low Level Waste, High Level Waste,

and Transuranic Waste

Low Level Radioactive Waste


• Definition: “radioactive waste not classified as

highlevel radioactive waste, transuranic waste,

spent nuclear fuel, or byproduct material as

defined in Section II(e)(2) of the Atomic Energy

Act of 1954.”

• “can be generated form any process in which

radionuclides are used”

– ex: nuclear power plants, medical and academic

institutions, industry, government

• disposal: shallow land burial

– “involves the packaging of individual waste containers

in large concrete overpacks”

High Level Radioactive Waste


• Definition: “consists of spent nuclear fuel, liquid

wastes resulting form the reprocessing of

irradiated reactor fuel, and solid waste that

results form the solidification of liquid high level


• generated commercially or by government

• disposal:

– spent nuclear fuel: temporarily stored in a pool of

water, then placed in a sealed container and disposed


– liquid HLW: underground storage tanks

• solidification and ultimate disposal of wastes have been


Transuranic Waste

• wastes containing isotopes heavier than


• generally manmade

• generated by government

– especially weapons testing

• disposal: stored temporarily, awaiting

permanent disposal

Mining Works Cited Page

Arsenic eating bacteria may save lives and clean mines. “Bright Surf.”

August 28, 2003. .

Bunce, Nigel J. Environmental Chemistry 2 nd Edition. Winnipeg, Canada:

Wverz Publishing. 1994.

Miller, Tyler. Living in the Environment. Pacific Grove: Thomson Learning

Inc. 2004.

Theodore, Mary K. Major Environmental Issues Facing the 21th Century.

Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. 1996.

U.S. Bureau of Mines. This is Mining. Washington D.C.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Coal Mining.” Sept. 8, 2003.

July 15, 2004. .

Nuclear Waste References

• U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. August 14, 2003.

Radioactive Waste. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory

Commission. July 14, 2004.

• U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. June 14, 2004.

About Mixed Waste. U.S. Environmental Protection

Agency. July 15, 2004.

• Environmental Health & Safety Online. July 7, 2004.

Radioactive and Mixed Waste. Environmental Health &

Safety Online. July 21, 2004.

Our Quick Autobiographies

-Name: Diana

-Age: 17

-City: Annandale

-High School: Bishop Denis J.


-Favorite Subjects: Math, Science, Art

-Least Favorite Subjects: none

-“Hobbies:” drawing, reading, doing

DDR, playing video games

I’m Rowena, the girl in the

orange shirt. I am going to be

a Junior at Landstown High

School…I play tennis,

chess…umm…and I’m a


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