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Sustainability, Mining and Aquatic Ecology

INTRODUCTION

The environmental and the rehabilitation of mining operations is a recognized aspect of worldwide production. In terms of aquatic ecology remediation it can be a costly exercise to correct and manage such environments and in my cases culminate in low value in terms of economic, social or sustainable output.

HABITATS

Generally, three particular types of habitats are formed from mine workings:-

1. Subsidence from underground mining operations creating typically shallow lakes and wetland zones.
2. Planned extraction of mineral resources causing large mine voids filling with water creating deep water ponds and lakes.
3. Coal-mine water discharge / mine springs occurring from old mine workings.

Subsidence voids

Historically, the rehabilitation of industrial zones and in particular redundant coalfield areas has been a serious problem throughout the Western Hemisphere. In 1995, the ‘Earth Centre’ project based at South Yorkshire, United Kingdom explored new methods of sustainable freshwater aquaculture for applications to environmental and economic regeneration. Mining subsidence contributed to the creation of wetland habitats suitable for freshwater aquaculture and constructive modifications lead to new pond construction utilising coal spoil waste material as a semi-impermeable membrane for the lining fish ponds. The treatment of metal pollutants in the initial culture water was by methods of engineered ecological filtration with the utilisation of emergent water plants to remove contaminates from the source water.

Excavated voids

There are over 1,800 fresh water filled mine voids in Western Australia. Relinquishment of final mining voids is a significant issue for coal mining companies. The cost of rehabilitating mine voids to land fill and re-establishment of pre-existing terrestrial habitats is prohibitive and not considered to be a viable commercial option by most coal mining companies. Utilising well-managed water quality, there is a huge potential to use these abandoned water bodies for aquaculture and recreational fishing.

The ‘Centre for Sustainable Mine Lakes’ based in the state is currently undergoing research in this field.

Coal-mine water discharge

One of the most ambitious projects opened in June 2000 in West Virginia, USA is a facility owned by the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority. The fish hatchery makes use of an abundant yet under-used resource—coal-mine water discharge. This semi-mature project is currently producing commercial volumes of arctic char and rainbow trout and estimated production capacity of 500,000 lbs annually.

RESEARCH ISSUES

Water quality

One of the greatest issues to overcome for aquaculture suitability is water quality. This can be achieved by an integrated water treatment system using aeration, fluidised limestone beds, algae ponds, reed bed filtration system and finally settling ponds. Such systems have been proven to precipitate iron and increase pH to optimize levels for fish production.

Food safety

Bogoso Mines (Ghana) used an old mine pit for a pilot fish farming project reportedly producing 2.5 tonnes of fresh tilapia and hope to produce 10 tonnes of the freshwater fish Tilapia within the next three years. The company states that the fish from the pond have been tested and proved safe for consumption. Aquaculture has developed sophisticated government food safety testing facilities around the world. The precursor of water treatment to achieve optimum water quality for aquaculture production serves a dual purpose of reducing heavy metals that may contaminate fish flesh.

ADDED VALUE

Integrated systems

By utilising using mine lake water with aquaculture this can bring nature conservation, eco-tourism and recreation, valuable assets towards community building exercises. Integrated aquaculture embraces polyculture where finfish, crustaceans and hydroponics can utilise bio-organic waste streams. Further community development will evolve from processing and marketing of horticulture and aquaculture products

Marketing potential

Aquaculture has recorded an increased growth in production of 30 percent from 1998 to 2002 largely attributed to improvements in technology. Our seafood consumption has trebled over the past thirty years and most authorities suggest that we have reached the limit of our catch from the oceans and expect aquaculture to double its world production in the next ten years. The seafood trade deficit in the US is currently estimated at $6.5 billion, second only to petroleum in terms of natural goods greatest marketing opportunities ever."

Algaculture

Particulary the culture of microalgaes can be performed in current and old mine tailings dams. There is potential for producing on site biofuels and bio-lubricants and becoming self sufficint in transport(fuel) energy. "

REFERENCES:

Earth Centre
An Overview of Freshwater Sustainable Aquaculture techniques on a reclaimed coalfield site.
United Kingdom, 1995

Mining Aquaculture’s Potential
Aquaculture Food and Marketing Development Project
West Virginia University – Agriculture & Forestry Experimental Station
WVU Extension Aquaculture

Appalachian Regional Commission's Area Development Program
Mining Fresh Water for Aquaculture
Appalachia, May–August 2000
by Carl Hoffman

Mining companies produce fish in old pits
Home Page Ghana

Centre for Sustainable Mine Lakes(CSML)
Curtin University of Technology, University of Western Australia

Australian Coal Association Research Program
Aquaculture as a Relinquishment Option for Final Voids

Premier Coal, Western Australia

Earth Centre 1993-2004 (United Kingdom)
Innovative remediation and centre for sustainable development

United Nations
Food and Agriculture Organisation - State of the World Fisheries

 

© 2009 Fishace