Acid mine drainage ‘enormous public liability’ in perpetuity—EARTHWORKS – by Dorothy Kosich ( – May 6, 2013)

A new report by the environmental NGO, Earthworks, proclaims acid mine drainage could generate between $57 billion to $67 billion annually in costs—a debt that future generations may shoulder.

RENO (MINEWEB) – A new study recently released by the Washington, D.C.-based environmental NGO Earthworks asserts an estimated 17 billion to 27 billion gallons of contaminated water will be generated by 40 U.S. hardrock mines annually in perpetuity. Forty-two percent of these mines are located on public lands.

“Another 13 mines are likely to generate water pollution in perpetuity, accounting for an additional 3.4 billion to 4 billion gallons of polluted water per year,” said report authors, Earthworks chief Bonnie Gestring and environmental research and science consultant, Lisa Sumi.

The proposed Pebble Mine Project—opposition of which has become a cause célèbre for environmentalists and sportsmen’s group– is among new mining projects Earthworks suggests will generate substantial water pollution.

“The primary cause of this lasting pollution—acid mine drainage—is well understood,” said the report. Acid rock drainage is mostly associated with sulfide ore deposits. “Yet, no hard rock open pit mines exist today that can demonstrate that acid mine drainage can be stopped once it occurs on a large scale,” according to Earthworks’ research.

“The long-term public liability is enormous;” the report contends, “taxpayers are expected to pay for centuries of water treatment—long beyond expected life of any mining corporation.”

“Equally alarming is the growing number of mine pits containing large volumes of water, which will persist forever,” Earthworks suggests, declaring that pit lake water “persists as a permanent hazard to health and wildlife.”

“The problem is at its worst in Nevada, where a University of Nevada scientist [Dr. Glenn Miller] has determined that mine pits from gold mines will contain more water than all of the fresh water reservoirs in the state, excluding Lake Mead,” the report advises.

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