Chemistry and speciation of potentially toxic and radioactive elements during mine water treatment
Mine water poses a serious environmental challenge and contains elements such as Fe, Al, and Mn in potentially toxic concentrations. The major anion in mine water is sulphate. The complexity and diversity of mine water composition makes its treatment very expensive, and there is no “one-fits-all” treatment option available for mine water. Active treatment of mine water produces water with good quality but the processes are not sustainable because of the costs. Previous studies have shown that acid mine drainage can be treated with coal FA to produce better quality water. The use of coal FA, a waste material from coal fired power station and mine water would go a long way in achievement of sustainable treatment of mine water as per previous studies. In this study mine water and coal FA were characterized to determine their physiochemical properties. This study linked the modelling results obtained by using the Geochemist’s workbench (GWB) software to the results obtained during the actual treatment of Matla mine water and Rand Uranium mine water using coal FA and lime. The chemistry involved when Matla mine water and Rand Uranium mine water were treated with flocculants was also investigated. Lastly the chemistry and kinetics involved was investigated when mine water was treated with various ameliorants such as Matla coal FA, lime and/or Al(OH)3 using jet loop mixing or overhead stirring. Mine water from Matla coal mine had a pH of 8 and therefore was classified as neutral mine drainage (NMD). Rand Uranium mine water had a pH of less than 3 and therefore was classified as acid mine drainage (AMD). The concentration of sulphate, Na, Ca, Mg, B, Hg, Se and Cd ions in Matla mine water was 1475, 956, 70, 40, 15, 2.43, 1.12 and 0.005 mg/L respectively. The concentration of sulphate, Fe, Ca, Mn, Mg, Al, B, Cr, Pb, U, Cd, Se and As ions in Rand Uranium mine water was 4126, 896, 376, 282, 155, 27, 5.43, 3.15, 0.51, 0.29, 0.007, 0.06 and 0.006 mg/L respectively . These concentrations were above the target water quality range (TWQR) for potable water set by the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) and World Health Organization (WHO). The gross alpha radioactivity was 6.01 Bq/L and gross beta radioactivity was 6.05 Bq/L in Rand Uranium mine water.