Project Title:Characterisation of acid mine drainage using stable isotope geochemistry
PI/Supervisor(s): A/Prof Megan Becker; A/Prof Jenny Broadhurst; Prof Jochen Petersen; Prof Sue Harrison
Acid mine drainage (AMD) is one of the major environmental problems affecting active and abandoned coal and metalliferous mining sites. To mitigate the effects of acidic mine effluents, accurate AMD characterisation and prediction is necessary. These require the understanding of the fundamental controls on AMD generation. Simultaneously, identification of the source and the various attenuation reactions of pollutants during both the early stage of AMD formation and their subsequent transport need to be assessed. The current laboratory characterisation tests (e.g. static and kinetic tests) are limited to conventional mineral deposits. Moreover, as these methods mostly rely on the geochemical and basic mineralogical composition of waste materials, those cannot provide information on transformation processes of various contaminants in mine effluents. The continuously refined analytical techniques in the past decades have allowed the wide range of isotope analyses to be done and become a powerful tool in pollution monitoring. In addition to the source tracking, the redistribution of stable isotopes between different phases and substances during chemical and physical processes is indicative of the mechanism that triggered the fractionation. Therefore, by applying stable isotope analyses, we can potentially identify AMD generation-related geochemical reactions and the conversions of various contaminants during their migration in natural systems.