Mountaintop Mining Pollution Has Distinct Chemical Signatures

This article is about how sulfur, carbon, and strontium have provided scientists a way to track pollution from mountaintop mining. Research has shown that those three elements can be used as diagnostic tools to quantify the mining pollution. The researchers measured the chemical compositions in water samples and found that the strontium isotope ratio is a sensitive tracer for a major pollutant of mountaintop mining. In mountaintop mining, companies use explosives and heavy machinery to clear away surface rocks and extract shallow deposits of high-quality coal. The companies typically dispose of the waste rock in adjacent valleys, where they bury existing head water streams. Because of this, the valley contains high levels of fish toxin. The contamination can stay in the valleys for decades even if the mining stops.

Marina Bryant

Soil and Geology: mining impacts


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