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Acid mine drainage is generated by the natural oxidation of comparatively common minerals of sulphur when those remain exposed to water and air for a long time. The oxidation of pyrite produces sulphuric acid and ferric sulphate, and is responsible for the majority of ARD formation.
Acid mine drainage or Acid rock drainage (ARD) refers to the acidic water that is formed when sulphide minerals are exposed to air and water and, through a natural chemical reaction, produce sulphuric acid. Acid mine drainage has the capability to introduce acidity and dissolved metals into water. This drainage is too damaging to fish and all other floras and faunas. Averting and controlling acid mine drainage is a major concern at an operating mine sites and after a mine is closed permanently. Researchers are continuously in search of higher technologies to improve ARD estimation, prevention, and treatment.
Due to presence of huge quantity of sulphuric acid in acid mine drainage, the pH of water decreases drastically once sulphide oxidation starts. As pH of water gets lowered, ferric sulphide is oxidized to ferric iron which further oxidizes other minerals like lead, zinc and copper etc. Thus quantities of different toxic minerals go on increasing with time.
Acid mine drainage formation is found naturally where sulphide minerals are exposed to the air. In fact, presence of ARD in surface water or groundwater is a good evidence of presence of mineral deposits somewhere nearby. It is known that Sulphide minerals constitute good proportion of rock in some geographical regions, and exposed deposits usually have a red or yellow cap of oxidized material known as a gossan.
The rate of production of acid mine drainage depends on the following factors –
Thus, where acid mine drainage enters surface water, it has very negative impact on the aquatic animals, insects and plants. The metals associated with acid mine drainage are sometimes found to be more damaging than the acidity.
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