Chapter 11

From GARDGuide

11.0 ARD Management in the Future

11.1 Introduction
11.1.1 ARD through the Sustainable Development "Lens"
11.2 ARD Research and Management – Today and Tomorrow
11.2.1 History and Status of ARD Research and Management
11.2.2 The Future of ARD Research and Management
11.3 Stakeholder Roles

11.0 ARD Management in the Future

11.1 Introduction

This chapter briefly examines the current state and the future of ARD research and management.  It begins with a discussion of the relevance and application of sustainable development to ARD management since, today and in the future, ARD management is viewed and managed through a sustainable development “lens”.  The second section briefly examines the state of research and possible future developments in ARD science and engineering.  The final section reviews the roles of the various stakeholders in advancing ARD science and management.

11.1.1 ARD through the Sustainable Development "Lens"

With its potentially wide-ranging and multigenerational consequences, ARD is an important ‘sustainable development’ issue. It is helpful, therefore, to view ARD and its management through a sustainable development “lens”.

The goal of sustainable development was outlined in Chapter 1 of the Guide and is repeated here for ease of reference:

“to maximize the contribution to the well-being of the current generation in a way that ensures an equitable distribution of its costs and benefits, without reducing the potential for future generations to meet their own needs” (MMSD, 2002).

  • In practice, sustainable development calls for an integrated, balanced, and responsible approach that accounts for short- and long-term environmental, social, economic, and governance considerations. Sustainable development is a shared responsibility, with governments, civil societies, community leaders, and mining operators all playing important roles. 

Clean and available water is a fundamental global need for current and future generations. These resources are under increasing demand from growing populations and industrial use around the world.  As ARD can affect water use for decades, the proactive and responsible care of this resource is a fundamental sustainability issue. 

Few regulations specifically require ‘sustainable development’ (see Chapter 3).  Yet, industry is increasingly utilizing the framework of sustainable development to inform business and operational decisions, largely driven by the need to protect its social license to operate.  Most major mining companies have established their own, internal sustainable development (sometimes also termed sustainability or corporate responsibility) principles with their associated goals and targets.  There are also industry-wide, external principles, such as those developed by the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM).  In addition, International Finance Corporation (IFC) guidelines and safeguard policies also drive much of the sustainable development considerations. 

The text box below provides some sustainable development guidelines relevant to environmental and ARD management and the mining industry in general.

Sustainable development guidelines:

It is prudent to consult these internal and external principles and goals and interpret them in developing an ARD management plan. 

Global standards, such as the ICMM Principles, are useful to help understand issues that need to be considered within the framework of sustainable development.  However, applications of these principles, especially within the context of a mine site, are invariably local in nature.  Local factors, such as the environmental and ecological characteristics, economic development, and cultural values, determine the degree of priority among issues that need to be considered and addressed.

In ARD management, sustainable development typically involves the mining company engaging stakeholders and finding optimal solutions that minimize risk, maximize benefits to multiple stakeholders, and manage trade-offs.  Fundamentally, it is a matter of exercising socially responsible practices.  Sustainable development requires looking for the solution from a whole society and a whole mine-life-cycle perspective and for the long-term.  A sustainable development view favours prevention of ARD over mitigation and treatment.  It also involves considering the long-term cost of ARD management in assessing the feasibility of a mine project or major expansion or modification, including the closure costs and post-closure site activities.

The relative importance of the different considerations for ARD is highly dependent on the local environmental as well as socioeconomic characteristics. Stakeholders’ aspirations, priorities, and preference help shape the targets and parameters for ARD management planning.  The planning timeframe, the level of acceptable risk, and range of possible financing mechanisms all depend to a large extent on stakeholders’ views.  On the other hand, engaging stakeholders also helps in identifying opportunities to address other needs and concerns within an integrated ARD management solution.

The costs and the benefits of ARD management occur to different stakeholders and at different timeframes.  Left unmitigated, the impacts impose costs to the community-at-large, often for generations.  A well-designed ARD management plan, on the other hand, while increasing near-term costs for the company, creates long-term benefits to the community, local government, and other stakeholders, and reduces risks to the environment.  Recognizing realistically the nature of these costs over time, relative to the desired and anticipated benefits, is critical to the development of an acceptable solution.

Sustainable development practices, including broadening the ARD planning perspectives, incorporating stakeholder concerns, and communicating ARD management performance to stakeholders, might increase short-term costs to the mining company. However, they can provide considerable long-term benefits, including:

  • Reducing the risk of business, closure costs, and operational interruptions
  • Providing financial incentives in terms of reduced financing and insurance rates
  • Staying ahead of regulatory requirements
  • Protecting reputation and the social license to operate

Many aspects of sustainable development may not seem directly relevant to ARD management at first glance.  However, some case histories in the industry have demonstrated the value of applying the broader perspective early in ARD planning.  For example, at the Britannia Mine in British Columbia, Canada, including a geothermal energy system to extract ARD heat for a local utility, a recreational area, and a sustainable community around the site constitute part of an integrated ARD management solution that partially funds the ARD mitigation cost (Meech et al., 2006).  Similarly, metal recovery activities (e.g., re-mining, processing wastes or metal recovery from ARD) might be implemented that benefit the company as well as the local community (e.g., Gusek and Clarke-Whistler, 2005).  The examples illustrate how integrating environmental, social, and economic aspects can produce sustainable solutions that benefit all parties involved. 

In summary, sustainable development provides a valuable “lens” to view ARD at a particular mine and to develop appropriate management plans that address both potential short and long-term issues.

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11.2 ARD Research and Management - Today and Tomorrow

11.2.1 History and Status of ARD Research and Management

As described in the Guide, research and knowledge of ARD management has grown rapidly over the last 50 years and particularly over the last 20 years.  In broad terms, some major advances may be summarized:

  • 1950s - improved understanding of the causes of ARD, including the role of micro-organisms
  • 1960s - development of early prediction techniques starting in the coal fields of the southeastern USA and in Canada
  • 1970s - development of ARD prevention approaches, including segregation and selective handling of wastes and of water treatment systems
  • 1980s - start of comprehensive research programs, development of water cover prevention technology, and improved national and global technology transfer and exchange
  • 1990s – enhanced recognition of sustainability concepts, development of a comprehensive approach to ARD management and development of soil cover models and multiple layer and store and release covers
  • 2000s - standard incorporation of sustainability principles, improved integration of ARD management into mine plans, and improved assessment of costs and implications for mine development.

Perhaps the greatest achievement over the last 50 years, however, is the increased awareness and comprehensive understanding of the ARD issue among all stakeholders.  With this foundation, the future of ARD research and management is promising.

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11.2.2 The Future of ARD Research and Management

Future ARD research and management experience will bring further advances.  Ultimately, the goal should be to implement characterization, prediction and prevention programs at all mines so that material levels of ARD and ML are not produced.  Sulphide oxidation might not be stopped, but its effects could be reduced to insignificant levels.  Many mines might achieve zero discharge of effluents through the application of water minimization, recycle, and technological innovation.  

To achieve the ARD goal, advances must be made to address:

  • Appropriate characterization and prediction programs that support effective ARD prevention and management in all geo-climatic environments
  • Prevention and management plans that are fully integrated into mine plans as a normal course of doing business
  • Costs of ARD management are fully assessed and incorporated into mine feasibility assessments including the full cost closure and post-closure scenarios for short and long term risks
  • Permits and approvals reflect understanding and confidence in ARD management approaches and regulatory bodies have the capacity to apply regulations that are relevant to effective ARD management
  • Liabilities associated with historic mines are reduced through cost-effective ARD mitigation, and where necessary by passive treatment 
  • Stakeholders fully understand the risks and management approaches to address ARD issues and have confidence in their success through verification of prediction and prevention approaches

Substantial progress is likely to be achieved towards this goal over the next 10 years through a combined effort of the mining industry, government agencies, financial institutions, universities, and other stakeholders.  This GARD Guide is aimed at supporting such an effort by compiling global information and presenting it in a format that is accessible to all.

The following are some possible milestones:

  • In 3 years – improved integration of ARD management into mine operations, effective evaluation and costing of ARD management in feasibility studies and effective exchange of case studies by the mining industry and government agencies
  • In 5 years – a field verified, standardized approach to prediction and risk assessment and management, improved understanding of scale up of ARD prediction from lab to field and improved resource recovery (water and metals) technologies for ARD
  • In 10 years – a field proven suite of prevention and mitigation tools to address multiple ARD problem sets in various geoclimatic locations

Specific research is needed to fill knowledge gaps, some of which are listed below.  In many cases, the approaches and technologies are available and may be proven for particular mines or geo-climatic environments, but it may not be known if they are broadly applicable.

Characterization and Prediction

  • Methods to scale-up laboratory prediction methods to full-scale mine facilities
  • Prediction approaches for underground mines
  • More long-term field verification of prediction programs
  • Methods to predict drainage from waste rock dumps and tailing impoundments in arid environments
  • Tests of the southeastern US coal field “rules of thumb” for prediction to coal mines in other geoclimatic regions
  • Improved coupled models for predicting acid generation and metal dissolution and mobility in waste rock dumps
  • Improved and more timely kinetic prediction methods for ARD and ML
  • Improved guidelines on the interpretation of kinetic test results, including coal wastes

Prevention and Mitigation

  • Improved prevention and mitigation techniques for pit walls and underground mines
  • Development and demonstration of ARD passivation technologies
  • Development of implementation guidelines for blending and layering of waste rock
  • Understanding of the application and implementation of tailing paste and tailing-waste rock co-disposal
  • Verification of performance and criteria for design and application of covers on waste rock dumps and tailing impoundments in various geo-climatic conditions
  • Further field and long-term demonstration and case studies for all prevention and mitigation approaches


  • Cost-effective methods for sulphate removal
  • Development of in-pit water treatment methods
  • Methods to predict and evaluate the operating life of constructed wetlands and other passive treatment systems
  • Passive systems for manganese removal
  • Economic recovery of metals at relatively low concentrations from ARD
  • Design approaches for wetland treatment of ARD from metal mines (i.e., wide range of metal parameters)

ARD Management

  • Demonstrated case studies of integrating ARD prevention into mine plans
  • Improved and standardized approaches of risk assessment and management for ARD prevention and mitigation

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11.3 Stakeholder Roles

Achieving the goal for ARD management outlined above will require participation of all stakeholders.  Some of their roles are listed below:

  • Mining industry – develop management systems and integrate ARD into mining plans, develop case studies, share on-site experience, and support research
  • Regulatory agencies – develop improved methods of risk management, share case histories (especially for closed and abandoned mines), encourage communication between stakeholders and continue to search for means to address ARD from abandoned mines
  • Financial institutions – incorporate guidance (such as the GARD Guide) and define expectations into their evaluation of financing requests by mining companies
  • Multi-lateral organizations - incorporate guidance (such as the GARD Guide) into their documents and foster its implementation in developing countries
  • Consulting community – apply best practice approaches in ARD prevention plans and share experience and knowledge
  • Universities – focus applied research projects to fill ARD knowledge gaps, work closely with the mining industry and other stakeholders, and train new scientists and engineers in best practice
  • NGOs – assist in assessing and communicating risk among stakeholders
  • Communities – contribute to building case studies and long-term ARD management approaches as part of attaining and maintaining the social license to operate

INAP and the Global Alliance are dedicated to reducing liabilities associated with sulphide-bearing materials and will play their part in advancing best practice in ARD management.  INAP will fulfill its role by promoting and facilitating ARD prevention and treatment through global networking, technology transfer and collaborative research.  These activities will be achieved through peer reviews, workshops and conferences, leveraged research and policy development.

INAP believes that this GARD Guide will be a key element in expanding ARD prevention and treatment capacity in the mining industry and its numerous stakeholders.  INAP is committed to making the Guide the premier global authority on ARD in prevention and treatment and a “resource of choice” on ARD best practice.

To achieve this, the Guide needs to continue to evolve and improve.  The current version represents only an initial step.  Participation of all stakeholders is key.  INAP and its member companies will continue to be actively engaged in regular reviews of the Guide and will ensure that all of its technical innovations on ARD that are not confidential are included in the Guide.

INAP encourages all readers of this Guide to provide input through the Wiki or to contact INAP or the Global Alliance. 

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Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI), 2007. Metrics Navigator.

International Council of Mining & Metals (ICMM), 2003. 10 Principles for sustainable development performance.

Gusek, J., and K. Clarke-Whistler, 2005. Where does the recovery of metal resources from passive treatment systems fit in sustainable development initiatives associated with large mining projects. Annual Meeting of the American Society for Mining and Reclamation, June 19-24, Breckenridge, CO.

Leading Practice Sustainable Development Program (LPSDP), 2007. Managing acid and metalliferous drainage. Canberrra: Australian Government Department of Industry Tourism and Resources.

Meech, J.A., McPhie, M., Clausen, K., Simpson, Y., Lang, B., Campbell, E., Johnstone, S., and P. Condon, 2006. Transformation of a derelict mine site into a sustainable community: the Britannia project. Journal of Cleaner Production, 14:349.

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