The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Anchorage recently commissioned a report to assist with its review of a number of upcoming mine developments in Alaska, ranging from Pebble to the Chuitna coal project.
The report, a rather sobering overview of the available scientific literature, is titled "Acid Mine Drainage and Effects on Fish Health and Ecology: A Review." It can be read here.
Here are some snippets from the report:
* "Accurate prediction of the onset and aggressiveness of low-quality acidic water discharge is perilously difficult using the best available science. Multiple complex geochemical, biological and hydrologic factors create a daunting task for mining engineers to profitably recover mineral resources while preventing discharges of metals and acidity to surface and ground water."
* "The U.S. Forest Service estimates that between 20,000 to 50,000 mines are currently generating acid on lands managed by that agency; with negative impacts from these mines affecting some 8,000 to 16,000 km of streams (USDA, Forest Service 1993). Many of these mines are small abandoned facilities located in remote areas of the western United States and originating prior to modern environmental controls. However, several large scale mines developed in the latter half of the twentieth century have declared bankruptcy and left taxpayers with the responsibility of treating acid waters in perpetuity. Examples include the Zortman Landusky Mine in Montana, the Summitville Mine in Colorado, and the Brohm Mine in South Dakota."
* "Acidic drainage has been identified as the largest environmental liability facing the Canadian mining industry and is estimated at $2 to $5 billion dollars."
* "... no hard rock surface mines exist today that can demonstrate that (acid mine drainage) can be stopped once it occurs on a large scale. Evidence from literature and field observations suggests that permitting large scale surface mining in sulfide-hosted rock with the expectation that no degradation of surface water will result due to acid generation imparts a substantial and unquantifiable risk to water quality and fisheries."