Deutsch: Säuremine-Abfluss / Español: Drenaje Ácido de Minas / Português: Drenagem Ácida de Minas / Français: Drainage Acide des Mines / Italiano: Drenaggio Acido delle Miniere /

An Acid Mine Drainage is Drainage of water from areas that have been mined for coal or other mineral ores.

The water has a low pH because of its contact with sulfur-bearing material and is harmful to aquatic organisms.


Acid mine drainage is a major environmental issue caused by the oxidation of sulfide minerals present in rock exposed during mining activities. When these sulfide minerals are exposed to air and water, they form sulfuric acid, which leaches out heavy metals and other pollutants, creating a toxic cocktail that contaminates water sources and poses serious risks to aquatic life, wildlife, and human health.
The acidic, metal-laden runoff from abandoned mines can devastate ecosystems and render bodies of water uninhabitable. It can also have far-reaching consequences for downstream communities, affecting drinking water supplies and agricultural land. The bright orange, red, or yellow discoloration of water bodies is a telltale sign of acid mine drainage, caused by high levels of dissolved iron.
Efforts to mitigate acid mine drainage include treating contaminated water with lime or other alkaline materials to neutralize acidity and precipitate out heavy metals. Additionally, strategies such as wetlands remediation and passive treatment systems have been employed to help naturally neutralize and filter out contaminants. Prevention is key to addressing acid mine drainage, with regulations and best practices aimed at minimizing the exposure of sulfide minerals to air and water during mining operations.
However, the long-lasting impacts of acid mine drainage, which can persist for decades or even centuries after mining activities have ceased, underscore the need for continued monitoring and remediation efforts to protect the environment and public health. The restoration of waterways affected by acid mine drainage is a complex and costly process that requires collaboration among government agencies, mining companies, environmental organizations, and affected communities to ensure long-term sustainability and prevent future contamination.

Well-Known Examples

  • Water pollution control:
  • Acid mine drainage can contaminate water sources with heavy metals and sulfates, leading to adverse effects on aquatic life and surrounding ecosystems.;
  • Soil remediation:
  • Acid mine drainage can lead to soil acidification and decreased fertility, requiring remediation efforts to restore soil health.;
  • Ecosystem restoration:
  • Efforts to address acid mine drainage can help restore damaged ecosystems and promote biodiversity in affected areas.;
  • Public health protection:
  • Acid mine drainage can pose a threat to human health through contaminated water sources and food chain contamination, necessitating risk management strategies.;

Areas of Application

  • Water pollution: Acid Mine Drainage refers to the highly acidic water that is produced when sulfide minerals in rocks are exposed to air and water, leading to pollution of nearby water sources.
  • Habitat destruction: Acid Mine Drainage can destroy aquatic habitats by lowering water pH levels and causing toxicity in various aquatic organisms.
  • Soil contamination: Acid Mine Drainage can contaminate soil with heavy metals that have leached from mine waste, affecting plant growth and potentially spreading to surrounding areas.
  • Human health impacts: Acid Mine Drainage can pose health risks to communities living near mining sites through exposure to contaminated water and soil, leading to various health issues.
  • Ecosystem disruption: Acid Mine Drainage can disrupt the balance of ecosystems by affecting the diversity and abundance of plant and animal species in a given area.

Treatment and Risks

  • Treatments: methods used to reduce the impact of acid mine drainage on the environment:;
  • Neutralization: adding alkaline substances to the water to raise the pH and reduce acidity.
  • Precipitation: adding chemicals to the water to cause the metals to precipitate out and settle at the bottom.
  • Passive treatment systems: using natural processes to treat the water, such as wetlands or limestone drains.
  • Risks: potential dangers associated with acid mine drainage and its treatment:;
  • Contamination of water sources: acid mine drainage can pollute streams, rivers, and groundwater, affecting aquatic life and human health.
  • Altered ecosystems: the acidity and high metal concentrations can disrupt the balance of ecosystems and harm plant and animal populations.
  • Costs: treating acid mine drainage can be expensive and may require ongoing maintenance to be effective.

Similar Terms

  • Coal mine drainage: The outflow of acidic water from coal mines, often containing high levels of dissolved metals and minerals.
  • Environmental pollution from mining activities: The contamination of air, soil, and water as a result of mining operations and the release of harmful substances into the environment.
  • Contaminated mine water: Water that has been polluted by mining activities, usually containing high levels of toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
  • Metallic sulfide pollution: Pollution caused by the oxidation of metallic sulfides in mining waste, leading to the release of acidic water and harmful substances into the environment.

Examples of Sentences

  • Acid Mine Drainage is a major environmental issue in many mining regions.
  • The effects of Acid Mine Drainage on aquatic ecosystems can be devastating.
  • Many companies are working to mitigate the impacts of Acid Mine Drainage through treatment technologies.
  • The Acid Mine Drainage problem is exacerbated by abandoned mines that continue to leach pollutants.
  • Scientists are studying the long-term effects of Acid Mine Drainage on soil quality.


  • (EPA resources for understanding ochre deposits related to acid mine drainage)
  • (Guidance from WHO on managing and mitigating the health impacts of acid mine drainage)
  • (UN Environment's overview of acid mine drainage as an environmental issue)
  • (USGS factsheet on the sources and effects of acid mine drainage)


Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) is a significant environmental issue in mining areas where sulfide minerals are exposed to water and air, leading to the formation of acidic runoff. This acidic runoff can cause serious harm to ecosystems by polluting water sources and causing harm to aquatic life. The acidic water can also leach toxic metals from the surrounding rocks, further contaminating the environment. Efforts must be made to prevent and treat AMD in order to protect the environment and human health.


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