Copyright 2000 Federal News Service, Inc.
Federal News Service
March 28, 2000, Tuesday
SECTION: PREPARED TESTIMONY
LENGTH: 1086 words
PREPARED TESTIMONY OF DIRK J.A. VAN ZYL DIRECTOR MINING LIFE-CYCLE CENTER MACKAY
SCHOOL OF MINES UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, RENO
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON ENERGY &
Good morning, ladies
and gentlemen, Madam chairman and members of the Subcommittee on Energy and
Mineral Resources of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources,
thank you for providing me the opportunity to appear before you today in support
of H.R. 2753, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Army to carry out a
program for the restoration of abandoned mine sites.
My name is Dirk van
Zyl and I am the Director of the recently formed Mining Life-Cycle Center and
Professor of Mining Engineering, Mackay School of Mines, at the University of
Nevada, Reno. The Mining Life- Cycle (MLC) Center is devoted to addressing the
key environmental and life-cycle issues facing mining, specifically noncoal
mining, in the United States and abroad. This is accomplished through teaching,
research and outreach activities. The life cycle of a mine includes all the
activities from exploration through development, operation and closure.
Abandoned mines can be considered a special case of the closure phase of mines
and are therefore of considerable interest to our activities. There are many
abandoned noncoal mine sites in the Western United States where mining
activities occurred during the last two centuries. These mines were developed
before we had a clear understanding of the potential environmental impacts of
mining to the water resources at the mine site. Many tens of thousands of
abandoned mine workings can be identified, however, a much smaller number of
these workings actually impacts water resources.
The major impact to
water resources from these noncoal, abandoned mines is through the release of
metals as a result of leaching of the naturally occurring minerals. One of the
main long-term issues associated with abandoned mine sites is the formation of
acid drainage through the oxidation of sulfide minerals in the presence of
oxygen and water. The water quality of streams, and therefore their ability to
sustain aquatic life, can be adversely impacted by acid drainage discharge.
Finding solutions to mitigate or eliminate acid drainage from abandoned mines is
a major area where technical research and development is needed.
funding of University and other research to evaluate, develop and implement new
technologies to address acid drainage, and other environmental concerns, at
abandoned noncoal mine sites must be a priority. Some funding is available for
such activities in the coal sector through the Surface Mining and Reclamation
Act of 1977, which places a perton assessment fee on coal production. However,
no similar funding mechanism exists for noncoal, abandoned mines. Differences in
geologic and climatic conditions make it impossible to directly apply the
technologies and solutions to noncoal mining that are found to be successful in
coal mining. New ideas must be researched and developed.
provides for research funding to the Western Universities Mine-Land Reclamation
and Restoration Consortium. Such funding will provide a very important mechanism
to address the technical issues associated with abandoned noncoal mines. Many
regions in the world with geologic and climatic conditions similar to that of
the Western United States have environmental problems associated with abandoned
mines. Research developed by the Consortium could therefore become a valuable
export item, both in the form of technical support and specific technologies.
My Center at the University of Nevada, Reno has recently been selected
as the University Research and Training Center for the Acid Drainage Technology
Initiative Metal Mining Sector (ADTI-MMS). The ADTI-MMS consists of volunteer
representatives from state and federal government, academia, the mining
industry, and consulting firms who are involved in the environmentally sound
management of metal-mine wastes in the United States. A Western
University Consortium consisting of the University of Nevada, Reno, University
of Alaska, Fairbanks, University of Idaho, University of Utah and New Mexico
Institute of Mining and Technology was formed to provide a broad range of
expertise to address these issues. However, very few sources of funding are
available for the activities of this important initiative. Efforts are currently
underway to motivate additional funding for ADTI in the Bureau of Land
Management, US Forest Service and other agency budgets. The commitments of the
organizations of these volunteer representatives to pursue such funding are a
further demonstration of the needs for specific funding in addressing the issue
of water quality problems associated with metal and acid drainage from abandoned
The Mining Life-Cycle Center is a member of the Nevada Abandoned
Mine Lands Environmental Task Force. Many opportunities are identified through
this task force where innovative remedial measures may be developed and
implemented through further research, however funding limitations prevent such
activities. It will be difficult, if not impossible, in the future to develop
and apply optimum remedial options for these sites if it is not possible to
perform the necessary research and development. This could lead to unnecessary
expenditures in the future.
It must be noted that there is a concern
that the implementation of research results, or even performing field trials, at
abandoned noncoal mine sites may face the same liability concerns faced by those
who endeavor to cleanup abandoned mine sites. The Clean Water Act and the
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, as
currently written, are major stumbling blocks to progress on this issue.
The Mining Life-Cycle Center considers the proposed H.R. 2753 a very
important step in addressing the environmental and water quality problems caused
by drainage from abandoned noncoal mines. It will provide the authorities to
perform research, develop new technologies and innovative approaches for
implementing solutions to these problems. This combined with the engineering and
project management expertise of the Corps of Engineers through the Restoration
of Abandoned Mines (RAMS) program will be a significant contribution in
addressing environmental and water quality issues at abandoned noncoal mines.
Madam Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks. Again, I want to
thank the Committee for holding this hearing and drawing attention to this
important piece of legislation. I will be happy to try to answer any questions
that you might have at the appropriate time.
LOAD-DATE: March 29, 2000