An Evaluation of the Effects of Historical Coal Mining Activities on Water Quality in the Elitheni Colliery, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
Keywords:Molteno-Indwe Coalfield, Acid mine drainage, Geochemical characteristics, Water quality
AbstractThe study reported on here was conducted to assess the impacts of historic coal mining activities at Elitheni Colliery in South Africa. Five boreholes and five water ponds were sampled during the summer of 2010 and winter of 2011. Physical characteristics (pH, EC, TDS) and hydrochemical characteristics (Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, HCO3-, Cl-, SO42-, F-, Pb and Fe) of the water were determined. To assess the suitability of the water for irrigation purposes, parameters such as total hardness, sodium absorption ratio (SAR), percentage sodium (% Na), residual sodium carbonate (RSC), permeability index (PI) and Mg ratio were calculated. The pH of the water ranged from 6.87 to 8.91, and electrical conductivity (EC) was between 4.5 and 94 mS/m. Total dissolved solids (TDS) ranged from 178 to 470 mg/L; spatial variations in TDS attest to variations in lithological composition, activities and prevailing hydrological regimes. HCO3- and SO42- were the dominant anions, while Na+ was the dominant cation. Na-K-SO4and Na-HCO3 were the dominant hydrochemical facies. Â Fe content was high in borehole water due to the oxidation of pyrite. On the basis of the calculated SAR, % Na, RSC, Mg ratio and salt content, it was concluded that the water can be used for irrigation purposes.Â The water quality analysis provided no conclusive evidence that historical mining activities have had any significant impact on the acidification of water resources in Elitheni Colliery. However, further studies are required to ascertain the ability of the aquatic environment and surrounding rocks to buffer any acid generated.
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