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Environmental characterisation

Environmental analysis for mine operations

A mine in development needs a specialised set of analyses to characterise mine waste behaviour. It is crucial to understand how the rocks being disturbed behave in order to understand the potential environmental impact to the area surrounding the mine. ALS provides numerous methods to determine Acid Rock Drainage as well as routine environmental testing for monitoring during and after mining.

environmental characterization

A global leader in environmental analysis

As one of the largest environmental laboratory networks in the world, ALS has the resources and expertise to meet the analytical needs of all your projects. ALS provides a full range of environmental testing services, specialising in the analysis of air, soil, sediment, water, and much more.

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Acid Base Accounting (ABA)

Acid Base Accounting (ABA) is a set of laboratory methods which are used to identify the acid-production and acid-consumption properties of a geological material. The methods are designed to produce the best estimate of how likely a material is to be a net acid producer or net acid consumer, therefore how likely to produce Acid Rock Drainage (ARD). To prevent the occurrence of ARD during mining and storage of waste and ore, the characteristics of the rocks being disturbed needs to be determined to effectively plan mitigation measures.

Acid base accounting requirements vary depending on location of the mine

There are multiple methods for determining ARD that have been selected by government organisations to be part of mine development reporting requirements. The method required in a particular jurisdiction varies and this information should be obtained from the relevant government organisations.


Metal Leaching & Acid Generation Analysis

At ALS, we understand that Acid Rock Drainage (ARD) can cause significant long-term environmental issues at mine sites if appropriate prevention and/or management strategies are not adopted. However, not all mining operations that have sulphide-bearing material result in ARD. In some scenarios, the sulphide minerals may be non-reactive, or the material may have sufficient buffering capacity to neutralise any acid released from sulphide oxidation. Samples with abundant neutralising minerals such as calcite or dolomite may increase the natural pH in waters, thus preventing or mitigating acid drainage and metal run-off. Tests to quantify ARD and metal leaching from mine waste under meteoric conditions can range from simple shake flask analysis to long term column leaches.

Tests to help identify and treat sources of acid rock drainage and the corresponding leaching of heavy metals into the environment

  • Net Acid Generation (NAG) – quantitatively estimates the acid that can be generated by a material.
  • Shake Flask Leach is a static solubility test procedure conducted on materials that are typically already oxidised as a result of historic enrichment processes, previous mining activity, or a delay in the use of preventive measures. The solubility of minerals can range based on composition and is also influenced by the leaching solution, the contact time, and other environmental conditions.
  • Humidity Cell – determines the rate of acid generation and the variation over time in leachate water quality.

Routine Environmental Analysis

ALS provides a full range of inorganic environmental analytical testing services in a variety of matrices, including soil, sediment, water, and air. Analytical methods are based on well-established, internationally recognised procedures such as those published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the American Public Health Association (APHA), as well as local country standards.

Mining operations may have needs for the following environmental testing services which can be provided:

  • Baseline analyses for environmental impact statements.
  • Heavy metals bio-uptake in plant and animal tissue.
  • Surface and groundwater for trace level metals, nutrients, general chemistry, and physical parameters.
  • Soil, waste rock, sludge, and sediment samples for trace level metals, nutrients, acid generation potential, physical analyses, and leaching tests.
  • Animal and plant tissue samples for trace level metals and organic contaminants.

Related resources

Mine Site Analysis

Environmental analysis - air

We offer a full range of environmental testing methods, see our Environmental Section - Air offerings.

Extractions Enviro Soil Sample

Environmental analysis - soil

We offer a full range of environmental testing methods, see our Environmental - Soil offerings.

The image shows a close-up of a water splash against a blue background.

Environmental analysis - water

We offer a full range of environmental testing methods, see our Environmental - Water offerings.