Old mines leave a toxic track in their path
Tuesday, 3rd February, 2015
A new study has shown that heavy metal contamination from the local mines stretches well beyond the city limits.
A paper released by the Royal Society of Chemistry outlines the effect of the city’s long history of transporting uncovered ore concentrates along hundreds of kilometres of train lines.
“These transport corridors pass through pristine environments and local towns resulting in elevated concentrations of the toxic metal lead,” the paper states.
“Dangerous levels of lead have been found in drinking water supplies in these towns and our study reveals dusts in houses to contain lead and zinc ore.
“This shows that the impact of mining operations can be detected well beyond acceptable limits.”
The study has widespread implications to any mining operations or indeed, any operations where hazardous materials are transported, the study said.
Soil samples were collected along four train line transects in 2009, 2011 and 2012, including the standard gauge line to Port Pirie, the narrow gauge Silverton Tramway line, and two areas along the line to Sydney.
Soil was collected along the train lines at varying distances up to 150m from the line and at varying depths using established methods.
Although safer practices are now used to transport ore, the paper calls for greater focus on the lingering effects of early mining.
“While the ore wagons are now covered by EPA mandate and losses of ore to the environment is no longer occurring as a result of train transport, this is not a resolved issue,” the report states.
“This study shows that the contamination along the train lines is still present.
“Given the aridity of region and the prevalence of dust storms, transport of ore-contaminated dust particulates into nearby houses and water supplies is a current concern.
“Rehabilitation along the train lines is necessary to prevent further movement of contaminated soil.”