Hydrogeological framework for assessing the possible environmental impacts of large-scale gold mines (2002)

Author(s): Kuma JS, Younger PL, Bowell RJ

    Abstract: Hydrogeological information is crucial to the development of a sound environmental impact assessment (EIA) for a proposed mine, as well as the management of potential environmental impacts during and after exploitation. However, the determination of hydrogeological parameters is not customarily included in mineral exploration surveys, with the result that many EIAs end up being rather light in hydrogeological content. Examples from the Tarkwa gold mining district of Ghana illustrate this point. Consequences of such an inadequate hydrogeological understanding are potentially serious, ranging from an inability to predict future problems in water quality after the cessation of mining, to a lack of understanding of hydrogeological controls on slope stability, which is arguably manifest in the catastrophic spill of cyanide-rich processing effluents from a breached tailings dam at Wassa West, near Tarkwa, on 16 October 2001. To redress this deficiency, we propose that a hydrogeological database be assembled during the mineral exploration phase, according to a specified protocol (‘check-list’). Using these data, a rational conceptual hydrogeological model for the mine site and its surrounding area can be developed, providing the basis for a thorough consideration of groundwater aspects within the statutory Environmental Impact Assessment, which is (as in most other countries) required by Ghanaian government statute before a mining lease is approved. The resources required to set-up such a database are small compared to the benefits.

      • Journal: Geological Society Special Publication
      • Volume: 198
      • Issue: 1
      • Pages: 121-136
      • Publisher: Geological Society Publishing House
      • Publication type: Article
      • Bibliographic status: Published

      Professor Paul Younger
      Visiting Fellow