In-situ Coal Pit Lake Treatment of Acidity When Sulfate Concentrations are Low
American Society of Mining and Reclamation
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Computing, Health and Science
Pit lakes (abandoned flooded mine pits) represent a potentially valuable resource to mining companies, the environment and community, if appropriate water quality can be achieved. However, the water is often of low pH with high dissolved metal concentrations. In Western Australia coal pit lakes are acidic (pH 3–5) but with low concentrations of sulfate and metals. Low sulfate concentrations prevent microbial sulfate reduction from reducing acidity in these lakes. However, stimulation of primary production and associated alkalinity generating processes may provide a cost effective and sustainable solution to the acidity problems. A field-scale experiment (with control) involving the treatment of in-situ macrocosms (~600 m3) in a small south-west, Western Australian coal mine lake with municipal mulch and phosphorus additions to enhance primary production was undertaken between June 2003 and June 2004. One macrocosm was treated with P additions, another with mulch, a third with mulch and P, and the untreated lake formed the control. Physico-chemical and algal (chlorophyll a) sampling of the macrocosms and lake occurred at monthly intervals. The decomposition of mulch reduced nitrogen concentrations in the macrocosms to very low levels and necessitated supplementation with urea fertilizer. Phosphorus concentrations dropped rapidly after addition as it became bound to iron, organic matter and sediment. Although there was virtually no difference between treatments and control for most physico-chemical parameters measured (including pH), a PCA of the data showed that the addition of mulch sent the macrocosms on a different trajectory to the control. This difference was reflected in observations of increased abundance and diversity of biofilms and macroinvertebrates within the treated macrocosms. In conclusion, the addition of mulch and phosphorus alone was not sufficient to increase the pH of Collie mine lakes, although it does provide a number of benefits for biota in the water. We therefore recommend that liming be used to increase pH, followed by organic matter and nutrient additions to stimulate primary production.