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Revista Brasileira de Ciência do Solo

On-line version ISSN 1806-9657


MELLO, Jaime Wilson Vargas de et al. Preliminary evaluation of acid mine drainage in Minas Gerais State, Brazil. Rev. Bras. Ciênc. Solo [online]. 2006, vol.30, n.2, pp.365-375. ISSN 1806-9657.

Mining in the State of Minas Gerais-Brazil is one of the activities with the strongest impact on the environment, in spite of its economical importance. Amongst mining activities, acid drainage poses a serious environmental problem due to its widespread practice in gold-extracting areas. It originates from metal-sulfide oxidation, which causes water acidification, increasing the risk of toxic element mobilization and water resource pollution. This research aimed to evaluate the acid drainage problem in Minas Gerais State. The study began with a bibliographic survey at FEAM (Environment Foundation of Minas Gerais State) to identify mining sites where sulfides occur. Substrate samples were collected from these sites to determine AP (acidity potential) and NP (neutralization potential). The AP was evaluated by the procedure of the total sulfide content and by oxygen peroxide oxidation, followed by acidity titration. The NP was evaluated by the calcium carbonate equivalent. Petrographic thin sections were also mounted and described with a special view to sulfides and carbonates. Based on the chemical analysis, the acid-base accounting (ABA) was determined by the difference of AP and NP, and the acid drainage potential obtained by the ABA value and the total volume of material at each site. Results allowed the identification of substrates with potential to generate acid drainage in Minas Gerais state. Altogether these activities represent a potential to produce between 3.1 to 10.4 billions of m3 of water at pH 2 or 31.4 to 103.7 billions of m3 of water at pH 3. This, in turn, would imply in costs of US$ 7.8 to 25.9 millions to neutralize the acidity with commercial limestone. These figures are probably underestimated because some mines were not surveyed, whereas, in other cases, surface samples may not represent reality. A more reliable state-wide evaluation of the acid drainage potential would require further studies, including a larger number of samples. Such investigations should consider other mining operations beyond the scope of this study as well as the kinetics of the acid generation by simulated weathering procedures.

Keywords : acid mine drainage; acid-base accounting; sulfide minerals.

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