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Acid Mine Drainage and Effects on Fish Health and Ecology: A Review

In Alaska, several large mine projects are currently proposed, ranging from open-pit, hard rock mines to strip mines for extracting coal. These large-scale projects have the potential to impact fish and wildlife resources through alteration or removal of vast areas of habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is responsible for managing fish and wildlife resources for the American public and in carrying out its mission, participates in pre-development activities for industrial projects. This report was commissioned to provide information to the Conservation Planning Assistance branch of the Anchorage Fish and Wildlife Field Office to aid in review of documents required as part of the permit process with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Alaska.


 Mine Drainage Overview 
Acid rock drainage (ARD) is produced by the oxidation of sulfide minerals, chiefly iron pyrite or iron disulfide (FeS2). This is a natural chemical reaction which can proceed when minerals are exposed to air and water. Acidic drainage is found around the world both as a result of naturally occurring processes and activities associated with land disturbances, such as highway construction and mining where acid-forming minerals are exposed at the surface of the earth. These acidic conditions can cause metals in geologic materials to dissolve, which can lead to impairment of water quality when acidic and used by terrestrial or aquatic organisms.
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