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ISSN : 1598-7248 (Print)
ISSN : 2234-6473 (Online)
Industrial Engineering & Management Systems Vol.19 No.1 pp.70-77

Protection of Hydrosphere in Mining Regions: Problems and Methodology of Technological Solutions

Irina V. Shadrunova, Natalia N. Orekhova, Tatiana V. Chekushina*, Kirill A. Vorob’ev
Department of Mining and Ecology, Institute of Comprehensive Exploitation of Mineral Resources of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russian Federation
Department of Mineral Developing and Oil & Gas Engineering, Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University), Moscow, Russian Federation
Department of Mining and Ecology, Institute of Comprehensive Exploitation of Mineral Resources of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russian Federation
Department of Mineral Developing and Oil & Gas Engineering, Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University), Moscow, Russian Federation
*Corresponding Author, E-mail:
November 14, 2019 January 10, 2020 January 21, 2020


The relevance of the study is due to the fact that in recent years, a number of technologies for the processing of waters with a priority content of copper zinc and manganese have been developed as remedial measures, which make it possible to obtain additional metal-containing products and improve the quality of water purification. This article aims to analyze the measures of protection of the ecological system in the South Urals. Leading approach to the study of this problem is monitoring that has afforded revealing peculiarities of natural and technogenic waters of mining enterprises in the South Urals. The materials of the paper imply the practical significance for the university teachers of the ecological specializations.



    The development of mineral deposits is associated with the penetration of man into the earth's interior and, in most cases, with the need for constant pumping to the surface of groundwater. As a result of this, the groundwater table decreases, the flow of natural watercourses decreases and sources run out, natural-technogenic waters are formed – mine, drainage, undermining. All this leads to an impoverishment or even the disappearance of the ecological system that existed earlier in the region. The greatest danger to the environment is caused by acid man-made waters (Acid Mine Drainage (AMD)), which are recognized worldwide as one of the most serious environmental problems in the mining industry (Lukyanova and Myaskov, 2007;Akcil and Koldas, 2006;Druschel et al., 2004;España et al., 2005). By the end of the last century, according to estimates (Perry and Kleinmann, 1991), more than 6.000 km of rivers and streams in the eastern United States were affected by acid drainage waters. In Russia in the Urals in 1995, mining enterprises in the Sverdlovsk region dumped over 80% of drained water in the river network, in the Chelyabinsk region – more than 75% (Gryaznov and Elokhina, 2017).

    Acid man-made waters of mines are formed mainly from infiltrating technogenically metamorphosed ores and rocks of mining outcrops and dumps of waters of atmospheric and underground origin. At the same time, water is polluted due to water erosion of waste rock piles and sub-standard useful minerals, dissolution of oxidized mineral forms. The discharge of pumped and wastewater leads to the contamination of surface water bodies with various salts, oil products and heavy metals. The impact of the discharge of sewage from mining enterprises into small and medium-sized rivers is very great, as a result of which their runoff can increase by 1.5-3 or more times.

    After the closure of the mines, the problem does not disappear (Gryaznov and Elokhina, 2017;Elokhina, 2013). Termination of dewatering, overburdening quarries and mines leads to the formation of man-made reservoirs with a volume of millions of cubic meters of toxic water; flooding of previously developed adjacent areas; pollution of underground and surface waters. At the largest mining and metallurgical companies attention is paid to the protection of the hydrosphere, focusing on measures of restorative nature.


    The Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company (UMMC-HOLDING) is the is Russian Mining and Metallurgical Holding, the largest producer of copper, zinc, coal and precious metals in the country. In addition, UMMC enterprises produce lead, selenium, tellurium, copper and nickel sulfate, and other types of by-products. The UMMC includes more than 40 enterprises in Russia and abroad (Protection of water resources, 2018).

    2.1 Gaisky Mining and Processing Plant (MPP)

    The plant completely switched to a drainless water circulation system. In order to prevent the discharge of raw quarry waters of the “Osenneye” field into the Kiembai River, treatment facilities have been built and the discharge of quarry water into the river has been completely stopped. Work is underway on the mining and technical reclamation of one of the two quarries and the laying of voids in the underground mine workings. This allowed to reduce the volume of the discharge of unbalanced water and prevent the collapse of mine workings. Storage ponds for the collection of acidic under-pouring waters from the Gaisky MPP exclude the ingress of these waters into the Kolpachka and Ural rivers. From all the industrial sites of the water, water comes to these ponds.

    In summer, the underspoil after neutralization with alkaline solutions is involved in the water recycling of the enterprise. Thus, the level of impact on the hydro-sphere is significantly reduced. The plant plans to build a sewage treatment plant of an underground mine worth more than 130 million rubles. As a result, the water intake from the Ural River will decrease by another 2.5 million cubic meters per year.

    2.2 Mednogorsk copper-sulfur plant

    More than 700 thousand square meters are cleaned annually meters of underspoil water, the volume of recycled water supply increased by 2.5 times. As a result, the content of copper, zinc, and iron in the in-streams of the Ural River decreased tens of times. Large-scale works are underway to recultivate the Yaman-Kasa quarry, to clean up the underspoil waters of the Dzherekly and Charles rivers.

    2.3 Sibai Mining and Processing Plant (MPP)

    In May 2012, the Sibai MPP commissioned a neutralization station for mine and underspoil waters. The cleaning technology used is more efficient. The design capacity of the facility is 400 m3 of water per hour. The unique technology of water disinfection at the station consists of several stages. First with the help of concentrated lime milk, the acidity of water is neutral-ized, and then heavy metals – manganese, zinc, copper and iron – are removed from the chemical reagents that are safe for humans.

    After that, the mine and subsoil waters can be disposed of in an open reservoir without harm to the environment. The efficiency of the station is confirmed by measurements made by the specialists of the central laboratory of the Sibaisky MPP and representatives of the Ministry of Ecology and Nature Management of the Republic of Bashkortostan. The rate of removal from the waters of heavy metals averages 98%. The quality of purified water discharged corresponds to the norms of the maximum permissible concentration of harmful substances in it. The total estimated cost of works on construction of treatment facilities is 187 million ru-bles.

    2.4 Sredneuralsky copper smelting plant (SCSP)

    Measures have been taken to reconstruct water treatment equipment, the capacity of the industrial sewage treatment department has been increased threefold, and the use of fresh natural water for 800 thousand cubic meters has been reduced per year (about 20%). Issues of filtration wastewater from a low-sulfur reservoir and pyrite water storage were eliminated. At SCSP, the wastewater collection system is being modernized and additional wastewater treatment plants are being built, which will allow to completely stop discharges into water bodies in the future. Various measures can be applied to reduce the impact of the mining industry on the hydrosphere and the state of water resources. The main measures of a preventive nature aimed at reducing water inflows into mining operations are:

    • - organization of pre-drainage;

    • - conventional drainage (including contour and with the use of water-lowering and water-absorbing wells systems), as well as absorbing drainage with a separate drainage of water;

    • - insulation of water sources, for example, wa-terproof curtains (screens);

    • -creation of reliable sewage systems of storm water and meltwater from the territory of the mining bend;

    • - pumping out thawed and rainwater from places of subsidence and dips;

    • - normalized flow of process water;

    • - pumping out groundwater in the development of the field.

    When developing measures of a restorative na-ture and, first of all, technology of water purification, one should be guided by the fact that the natural and man-made waters of mining enterprises, which include mines, underspoil, concurrently produced (brines) are fraught with not only an environmental hazard, but also a resource potential. Reduction of the amount of mine water as a result of the implementation of protective measures will lead to the formation of even more mineralized waters with a higher metal content.

    This should reflect the methodology of techno-logical solutions for protecting the hydrosphere of min-ing areas. The resulting water, as well as mineral raw materials in different enterprises, have their own peculi-arities and for the decision to be discharged into the environment, processing, cleaning or burial. It is necessary to study not only the chemical composition of water in the course of mining monitoring, but also the technological properties of specific flows (Ismailova and Zhuravleva, 2018).

    Despite the unity for the natural and techno-genic waters of mining enterprises of the main, containing admixture of matter – water, the multiplicity of the sources of formation of metalliferous flows and the qualitative and quantitative diversity of man-made waters, in our opinion, do not allow us to solve problems only with reference to the combined mine and subsoil waters. The streams should be considered separately from the outset.

    At the same time, the technological solutions to be treated should be taken into account: the need to discharge treated technogenic waters, into natural watercourses, including in the role of the main one, which supports the water content of rivers and food. The possibility of extracting valuable components from isolated flows; pooling of streams at a certain stage of processing for cleaning and neutralization.

    High metal concentration flows need to be classified as technogenic deposits of hydro-mineral raw materials. Analysis of the factors that inhibit the development of resource-saving processing of such waters with the production of additional products has shown that the reason lies in the limited knowledge of the methods and regularities of extracting valuable components from the active systems: natural watercourses, man-made streams and low motivation of the producer to process this species raw materials.

    Unfortunately, there is still no well-founded regulatory framework in order to correctly determine the conditions for man-made flows, which are a mineral resource and the requirements for technologies at the level of a specific design of resource-saving measures. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the use, neutrali-zation or involvement in processing of individual flows of man-made water is carried out without taking into account the interrelations existing in the mining water resource system and constantly developing technogenic changes only on the basis of obtaining a high economic effect at the moment. This leads to a decrease in the efficiency of nature management in general and, subse-quently, to an increase in environmental, economic and social costs.

    Research Institute of Comprehensive Exploita-tion of Mineral Resources of the Russian Academy of Sciences in conjunction with universities and mining companies of the Urals, has been studying the dynamics of indicators of natural and man-made waters, depending on temporal, climatic parameters, technology changes in field operations for many years. It conducts the rationale and development of environmental protection measures, technologies for the prevention and elimination of pollution and clogging of water, technological solutions and technologies for extracting valuable components.

    The studies are also aimed at assessing the eco-logical danger of mining waste waters and their techno-logical suitability for the industrial extraction of valuable components. One of the areas actively developed by the Department of Mining Ecology is the scientific justification and development of strategies and technological solutions for handling liquid waste from mining enterprises that extract and enrich copper-zinc pyrite ores (Protection of water resources, 2008).


    In addition to the chemical composition of water, it is necessary to study the dynamics of changes in water quality by the months of the calendar year for a number of years, to determine the forms of finding valuable components in the solution and the patterns of their transformation and transition to the solid phase when mixing different streams and being in storage tanks. In this connection, the integration of methods of hydrology, geochemistry, experimental methods, and theoretical modeling has been used to study natural-technogenic waters. It is established that during the year the consumption of mine waters changes by 2-3 times, and the concentrations of metals of technogenic waters are of the order of magnitude (Figure 1). However, seasonal fluctuations are cyclical, which allows for the introduction of technology changes in certain periods of the year (Ozhogina et al., 2016).

    The position of each element in the migration series is not constant, but varies in different conditions. However, for the predominant majority of acidic streams formed during the development of copper-zinc ore deposits in descending order of water migration, the prevailing elements are located in the Zn Mn Cu Cd series (Table 1).

    At the same time, there is a tendency to increase the content of zinc in the subsoil waters. In the course of the studies, the composition of not only man-made waters. But also water and mud of rivers of water receivers in the sanitary zone of mining enterprises of the Southern Urals and beyond, using modern analytical methods was studied. Particular attention is paid to the micro-component composition. In particular, monitoring results in Sibay allowed to state that the river – water intake of treated mine waters lost its self-cleaning functions.

    Moreover, as the distance from the place of discharge of water, the content of certain metals increases on the contrary, which indicates the leaching of metals from the accumulated waters during the discharge period without purification of metal-bearing silt. Probably, in this case, along with the commissioning of treatment facilities, it was necessary to provide for the cleaning of the riverbed of the water intake from man-made mud. To strongly acidic waters with a high metal load, first of all are the subsoil waters (Table 2).

    For such waters with the priority content of copper, zinc, manganese and iron in comparable concentrations, technologies have been developed that make it possible to obtain additional metal-containing products at different stages. For the extraction of metals, the following methods have been adapted: oxidation (Mn) (Chanturia et al., 2010), ion flotation (Cu, Zn) (Medianik et al., 2012), galvanocoagulation (Cu, Zn) (Shadrunova and Orekhova, 2015;Orekhova et al., 2012). After-treatment of water up to standard parameters is carried out by hydrolytic purification or sorption, sorbent is used magnesium-containing ceramic sorbent. The characteristics of the technologies are given in Table 3.

    As an instrument for management of techno-genic water flows, an interactive algorithm is proposed for the formation of a set of measures for achieving water quality standard indicators based on the best available technologies and existing methods for wastewater treatment from heavy metals (Shadrunova et al., 2015a, Shadrunova et al., 2015b). Formally, the task of choosing a scene is reduced to the choice of the composition of measures that ensure a given water quality, that is, with the concentration of heavy metals below the maximum permissible concentration for fishery purposes. The principle of the program is based on the separation of solid and liquid phases, which makes it possible to calculate not only the man-caused flows among themselves. Also the mixture of solid and liquid waste, which contributes to mutual enrichment and improvement of the indices of the drive.

    At the same time, it is possible at some stage to obtain an additional commodity product, using, for example, the method of galvanocoagulation with a galvanic “iron-carbon” for selective extraction of copper and zinc. In connection with this, this program can be used not only for the purpose of calculating the efficiency of water purification, but also for the purpose of calculation to extract valuable components (Figure 2).

    The main functions of the program:

    • • calculation of solid and liquid phases of man-made flow;

    • • calculation of the solid and liquid phases after the technological processes of purifi-cation or mixing;

    • • calculation of mixing of man-made flows at any stage;

    • • possibility of adding new technologi-cal processes;

    • • the possibility of changing the order of technological processes;

    • • the ability to add components to the calculation;

    • • the possibility of calculating the mixing of solid waste with technogenic water;

    • • the possibility of mixing 3 or more streams.

    The algorithm of interactive formation of a complex of measures for cleaning technogenic waters is universal and suitable for all mining and processing en-terprises. To reduce the load on the hydrosphere from insufficiently treated sewage and to obtain an environ-mental effect, it is necessary to use a comprehensive approach to the formation of wastewater treatment activities. The computer program developed can be calculated by sequential implementation of the steps, cleaning efficiency when combining in arbitrary order of technological processes and forming a rational technological scheme for wastewater treatment for a specific mining processing enterprise. The screen shot of the screen is shown in Figure 3.


    As a result of research conducted by Research Institute of Comprehensive Exploitation of Mineral Resources of the Russian Academy of Sciences in conjunction with universities and mining companies of the Urals, today there is a strategy and methodology for handling liquid waste from mining enterprises. There is a deeper understanding of the need to change the mining legislation in order to encourage enterprises to process man-made waters with the extraction of valuable components for their recycling. For effective and high-quality protection of the hydrosphere from the impact of mining enterprises should be carried out in a complex and in parallel measures of a protective and restorative nature. When planning hydrosphere protection measures, it is necessary to predict the change in the quality of water with a decrease in their volume as a result of precautionary measures. Also, when the technology of water treatment changes with increasing quality of purification, it is probably necessary to restore the river-water receivers to prevent the migration of heavy metals from man-made sludge accumulated in the beds to purified water.

    Technological solutions for water treatment should provide for the possibility of extracting valuable components at the pre-treatment stage to produce prod-ucts demanded in related industries: metallurgical and construction. Interactive algorithms for the formation of a complex of recovery measures for unbalanced natural and technogenic waters based on data of the best available technologies and existing methods of wastewater treatment can become effective tools for managing technogenic water flows of mining enterprises.


    The publication has been prepared with the support of “RUDN University Program 5-100” and programs budget finance of the Institute of Comprehensive Exploitation of Mineral Resources of the Russian Academy of Sciences.



    Deviation of long-term average monthly values of copper concentration from the average annual indicator


    Algorithm for the interactive formation of a complex of measures for the purification of technogenic waters


    Screenshot 1. Sequence selection screen


    Results of monitoring the quality of water in the river-intake of cleaned mine water

    Generalized characteristics of mine and subsoil waters of mining enterprises of the Southern Urals

    The characteristics of the technologies


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