Mining water : ‘High Pollution Potential’

The Selangor Government is planning to utilize water from disused mining pools to feed Sungai Selangor during the expected dry spell. There has been much skepticism with regards to the safety of water from mining pools for drinking. Will it have long term health related effects when ingested?

Perhaps we will delve into the literature to give all a better idea of the safety of mining water.

The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 369206, 15 pages

Morphology, Geology and Water Quality Assessment of Former Tin Mining Catchment
Muhammad Aqeel Ashraf,1 Mohd. Jamil Maah,1 and Ismail Yusoff2
1Department of Chemistry, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur 50603, Malaysia
2Department of Geology, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur 50603, Malaysia

Received 11 January 2012; Accepted 6 February 2012

Academic Editor: Wan Kuen Jo

Copyright © 2012 Muhammad Aqeel Ashraf et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Bestari Jaya, former tin mining catchment covers an area of 2656.31 hectares comprised of four hundred and forty-two different-size lakes and ponds. The present study area comprise of 92 hectares of the catchment that include four large size lakes. Arc GIS version 9.2 used to develop bathymetric map, Global Positioning System (GPS) for hydrographical survey and flow meter was utilized for water discharge analysis (flow routing) of the catchment. The water quality parameters (pH, temperature, electric conductivity, dissolved oxygen DO, total dissolved solids TDS, chlorides, ammonium, nitrates) were analyzed by using Hydrolab. Quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) procedures were strictly followed throughout the field work and data analysis. Different procedures were employed to evaluate the analytical data and to check for possible transcription or dilution errors, changes during analysis, or unusual or unlikely values. The results obtained are compared with interim national water quality standards for Malaysia indicates that water quality of area is highly degraded. It is concluded that Bestri Jaya ex-mining catchment has a high pollution potential due to mining activities and River Ayer Hitam, recipient of catchment water, is a highly polluted river.

The above research project done at a former mining catchment area showed that it has a “high pollution potential“.

Mar Pollut Bull. 2012;65(4-9):101-16. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.08.009. Epub 2011 Sep 1.
A review of sediment and nutrient concentration data from Australia for use in catchment water quality models.
Bartley R1, Speirs WJ, Ellis TW, Waters DK.


Land use (and land management) change is seen as the primary factor responsible for changes in sediment and nutrient delivery to water bodies. Understanding how sediment and nutrient (or constituent) concentrations vary with land use is critical to understanding the current and future impact of land use change on aquatic ecosystems. Access to appropriate land-use based water quality data is also important for calculating reliable load estimates using water quality models. This study collated published and unpublished runoff, constituent concentration and load data for Australian catchments. Water quality data for total suspended sediments (TSS), total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) were collated from runoff events with a focus on catchment areas that have a single or majority of the contributing area under one land use. Where possible, information on the dissolved forms of nutrients were also collated. For each data point, information was included on the site location, land use type and condition, contributing catchment area, runoff, laboratory analyses, the number of samples collected over the hydrograph and the mean constituent concentration calculation method. A total of ?750 entries were recorded from 514 different geographical sites covering 13 different land uses. We found that the nutrient concentrations collected using “grab” sampling (without a well defined hydrograph) were lower than for sites with gauged auto-samplers although this data set was small and no statistical analysis could be undertaken. There was no statistically significant difference (p<0.05) between data collected at plot and catchment scales for the same land use. This is most likely due to differences in land condition over-shadowing the effects of spatial scale. There was, however, a significant difference in the concentration value for constituent samples collected from sites where >90% of the catchment was represented by a single land use, compared to sites with <90% of the upstream area represented by a single land use. This highlights the need for more single land use water quality data, preferably over a range of spatial scales. Overall, the land uses with the highest median TSS concentrations were mining (?50,000mg/l), horticulture (?3000mg/l), dryland cropping (?2000mg/l), cotton (?600mg/l) and grazing on native pastures (?300mg/l). The highest median TN concentrations are from horticulture (?32,000?g/l), cotton (?6500?g/l), bananas (?2700?g/l), grazing on modified pastures (?2200?g/l) and sugar (?1700?g/l). For TP it is forestry (?5800?g/l), horticulture (?1500?g/l), bananas (?1400?g/l), dryland cropping (?900mg/l) and grazing on modified pastures (?400?g/l). For the dissolved nutrient fractions, the sugarcane land use had the highest concentrations of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN), dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) and dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP). Urban land use had the highest concentrations of dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP). This study provides modellers and catchment managers with an increased understanding of the processes involved in estimating constituent concentrations, the data available for use in modelling projects, and the conditions under which they should be applied. Areas requiring more data are also discussed.
Crown Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
PMID: 21889170 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

This review from Australia showed that the total suspended sediments from mining areas were the highest at 50,000mg/L.

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2009 Aug;16 Suppl 1:S14-26. doi: 10.1007/s11356-008-0068-2. Epub 2009 Jan 22.
Environmental and socioeconomic assessment of impacts by mining activities-a case study in the Certej River catchment, Western Carpathians, Romania.
Zobrist J1, Sima M, Dogaru D, Senila M, Yang H, Popescu C, Roman C, Bela A, Frei L, Dold B, Balteanu D.


In the region of the Apuseni Mountains, part of the Western Carpathians in Romania, metal mining activities have a long-standing tradition. These mining industries created a clearly beneficial economic development in the region. But their activities also caused impairments to the environment, such as acid mine drainage (AMD) resulting in long-lasting heavy metal pollution of waters and sediments. The study, established in the context of the ESTROM programme, investigated the impact of metal mining activities both from environmental and socioeconomic perspectives and tried to incorporate the results of the two approaches into an integrated proposition for mitigation of mining-related issues.

The small Certej catchment, situated in the Southern Apuseni Mountains, covers an area of 78 km(2). About 4,500 inhabitants are living in the basin, in which metal mining was the main economic sector. An open pit and several abandoned underground mines are producing heavy metal-loaded acidic water that is discharged untreated into the main river. The solid wastes of mineral processing plants were deposited in several dumps and tailings impoundment embodying the acidic water-producing mineral pyrite.

The natural science team collected samples from surface waters, drinking water from dug wells and from groundwater. Filtered and total heavy metals, both after enrichment, and major cations were analysed by inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES). Major anions in waters, measured by ion chromatography, alkalinity and acidity were determined by titration. Solid samples were taken from river sediments and from the largest tailings dam. The latter were characterised by X-ray fluorescence and X-ray diffraction. Heavy metals in sediments were analysed after digestion. Simultaneously, the socioeconomic team performed a household survey to evaluate the perception of people related to the river and drinking water pollution by way of a logistic regression analysis.

The inputs of acid mine waters drastically increased filtered heavy metal concentrations in the Certej River, e.g. Zn up to 130 mg L(-1), Fe 100 mg L(-1), Cu 2.9 mg L(-1), Cd 1.4 mg L(-1) as well as those of SO(4) up to 2.2 g L(-1). In addition, river water became acidic with pH values of pH 3. Concentrations of pollutant decreased slightly downstream due to dilution by waters from tributaries. Metal concentrations measured at headwater stations reflect background values. They fell in the range of the environmental quality standards proposed in the EU Water Framework Directive for dissolved heavy metals. The outflow of the large tailing impoundment and the groundwater downstream from two tailings dams exhibited the first sign of AMD, but they still had alkalinity. Most dug wells analysed delivered a drinking water that exhibited no sign of AMD pollution, although these wells were a distance of 7 to 25 m from the contaminated river. It seems that the Certej River does not infiltrate significantly into the groundwater. Pyrite was identified as the main sulphide mineral in the tailings dam that produces acidity and with calcite representing the AMD-neutralising mineral. The acid-base accounting proved that the potential acid-neutralising capacity in the solid phases would not be sufficient to prevent the production of acidic water in the future. Therefore, the open pits and mine waste deposits have to be seen as the sources for AMD at the present time, with a high long-term potential to produce even more AMD in the future. The socioeconomic study showed that mining provided the major source of income. Over 45% of the households were partly or completely reliant on financial compensations as a result of mine closure. Unemployment was considered by the majority of the interviewed persons as the main cause of social problems in the area. The estimation of the explanatory factors by the logistic regression analysis revealed that education, household income, pollution conditions during the last years and familiarity with environmental problems were the main predictors influencing peoples’ opinion concerning whether the main river is strongly polluted. This model enabled one to predict correctly 77% of the observations reported. For the drinking water quality model, three predictors were relevant and they explained 66% of the observations.

Coupling the findings from the natural science and socioeconomic approaches, we may conclude that the impact of mining on the Certej River water is high, while drinking water in wells is not significantly affected. The perceptions of the respondents to pollution were to a large extent consistent with the measured results.

The results of the study can be used by various stakeholders, mainly the mining company and local municipalities, in order to integrate them in their post-mining measures, thereby making them aware of the potential long-term impact of mining on the environment and on human health as well as on the local economy.
PMID: 19159960 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

The above was done at a metal mining area in Romania and they concluded that ‘the impact of mining on the Certej River water was high’.

So the verdict is yours. The Selangor Government might need to give us more details and provide irrefutable evidence that the mining water is safe and provide the research findings to the general public.

UPDATES August 4, 2014 : Selangor to hire independent consultants to assess water from disused mining pools

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