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Long-Term Changes in Water Chemistry as a Result of Mine Flooding in Closed Mines of the Pittsburgh Coal Basin, USA

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  • The chemistry of acidic mine drainage discharging from flooded coal mines is commonly reported to improve with time after flooding. This investigation describes a 18-year dataset of post-flooding water chemistry for a below-drainage underground coal mine within the northern Pittsburgh coal basin (Pennsylvania, USA). The Montour mine is a 5650-hectare below-drainage coal mine of maximum 260 metres depth. Montour was closed in 1980 and flooded to within 38 metres of land surface within 4.8 years. Pumping averaging 210 L/s was then employed to maintain water levels at this elevation. The flooded proportion of the mine (by volume) at full flooding was 56 per cent. The shaft where water was pumped from Montour for water control is located about 70 per cent of the distance between the mine water table and the back of the mine — that is, it is close to the back of the mine. The residence time (total water volume at flooding divided by pumping rate for control) is estimated at 5.6 years. Time series of chemical analyses show three phases of chemical behavior in post-flooding discharge. In Phase I (zero to two years after flooding), iron concentrations were high and reached their maximum (1100 mg/L). In Phase II (two to four years after flooding), a transition was begun to alkaline conditions, with decline in iron and other solutes. In Phase III (>4 years), net alkaline conditions began, with iron concentrations declining exponentially to 50 per cent of mined volume. This attainment of net alkalinity in this case may have also depended on abundant calcite in overburden extended up to 30 m above the mine floor.

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