Each topic area requires three types of research:
modeling to accurately project the changes in environmental parameters forward in time and outward in space;
monitoring to provide information on the averages, extremes, and trends of environmental indexes, and to help calibrate and verify the accuracy of the models; and
sampling and testing to acquire baseline data in and around mines.
It is impossible to predict which types of research will provide answers to the needs identified here or whether the critical problems have been identified. The scientific community needs support and flexibility to innovate and respond to new opportunities, as well as to resolve the well-identified problems.
Water represents by far the most important interface between mining and the environment, and its quality, quantity, and distribution provide some of the most effective criteria for monitoring the state of the environment. There is an array of models and laboratory techniques used to predict water quality and quantity from the leaching of mine waste and rock at mine sites. These techniques and models include tests for acid-generation potential, leach tests, pit lake models with water quality and quantity components, and waste rock and tailings discharge models with water quality and quantity components. The results from these tests and models are used to determine if pit water or leachate from mine waste will pose a threat to aquatic life, wildlife, or human health. Predictions of long-term water quality related to acid drainage, especially in pit lakes, have a high degree of uncertainty. Without reliable forecasts of long-term water quality, it is difficult to design effective mine waste management techniques to protect against future deterioration of water quality. Uncertainty about long-term water quality and quantity predictions points to a number of research needs that could help increase the accuracy or define the appropriate use of these predictive tools.
The objective of pit lake models is to accurately predict the chemistry and hydrology of pit water as the lake forms, after water levels have stabilized and taking into account any long-term impacts of evaporation or other factors that may affect water quantity. The modeling results can indicate the factors that