Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2009

Abstract

Creating Lakes from Open Pit Mines: Processes and Considerations, Emphasis on Northern Environments. This document summarizes the literature of mining pit lakes (through 2007), with a particular focus on issues that are likely to be of special relevance to the creation and management of pit lakes in northern climates. Pit lakes are simply waterbodies formed by filling the open pit left upon the completion of mining operations with water. Like natural lakes, mining pit lakes display a huge diversity in each of these subject areas. However, pit lakes are young and therefore are typically in a non-equilibrium state with respect to their rate of filling, water quality, and biology. Separate sections deal with different aspects of pit lakes, including their morphometry, geology, hydrogeology, geochemistry, and biology.

Depending on the type and location of the mine, there may be opportunities to enhance the recreational or ecological benefits of a given pit lake, for example, by re-landscaping and re-vegetating the shoreline, by adding engineered habitat for aquatic life, and maintaining water quality. The creation of a pit lake may be a regulatory requirement to mitigate environmental impacts from mining operations, and/or be included as part of a closure and reclamation plan.

Based on published case studies of pit lakes, large-scale bio-engineering projects have had mixed success. A common consensus is that manipulation of pit lake chemistry is difficult, expensive, and takes many years to achieve remediation goals. For this reason, it is prudent to take steps throughout mine operation to reduce the likelihood of future water quality problems upon closure. Also, it makes sense to engineer the lake in such a way that it will achieve its maximal end-use potential, whether it be permanent and safe storage of mine waste, habitat for aquatic life, recreation, or water supply.

Comments

Canadian Technical Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 2826. This report is a copy of an official work published by the Government of Canada and was not produced in affiliation with, or with the endorsement of the Government of Canada.

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