Potential use of biological soil crusts and silicate on the rehabilitation of gold mine tailings

Introduction

The Rehabilitation of Gold Mine Tailings is one of the Southern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab (SA RILab) innovation projects implemented in South Africa by a University of Pretoria student. The project falls under the Youth Spark Innovation Grant with the ultimate focus to improve health of people or communities living within the vicinity of the mine dumps. This project seeks to identify beneficial micro-organisms that occur naturally within the dumps' ecosystem and encourage them to grow so as to be able to establish seral succession as quickly as possible.

Problem Addressed

Mine dumps negatively impact the environment and public health in various ways. One of the direct impacts is loss of arable land which can affect food security because of the reduction in grazing and farming land. Other impacts include air and water pollution and siltation of rivers and loss of biodiversity. Mine dumps are usually devoid of vegetation resulting in wind and water erosion from their exposed surfaces. Mining and their resultant TSFs often leads to the development of acid mine drainage (AMD) also known as acid rock drainage (ARD). AMD is a result of the oxidation of iron pyrites and other sulfur-rich minerals that normally are found at great depth, but are now exposed to surface oxygen and water.

The Intervention

This project seeks to identify beneficial micro-organisms that occur naturally within the dumps' ecosystem and encourage them to grow so as to be able to establish seral succession as quickly as possible. Previous studies have focused on studying these communities of organisms (called biological soil crusts), in extreme environments such as desert soils. None has looked at these organisms in mine dumps.

Results/Outcomes

The following will be the benefits for the South African communities:

  • Promote safer environments by rehabilitating the mine dumps
  • Reduced pollution (air and water) improving the quality of life for mining communities
  • Contribute to knowledge generation for the benefit of society at large

 

Contact: Richard Whande; Email: richard.whande@gmail.com.