Canada's coal resources sites
Coal is one of the major sources of energy. Canada is home to 24 permitted coal mines –19 of which are currently in operation. More than 90% of Canada’s coal deposits are located in western provinces, in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. There are possibly numbers of coal mines in northern areas, however, there are not any active mines and many resources are buried in the ice. Coal mines in each province are specified in Table 1, Figure 1 and Figure 2, Figure 3.
Most of Canada’s coal mining is processed by extraction through surface mining — more specifically through strip mining or open-pit extraction. surface mining is a serious threat to wildlife habitats and water systems, and they are more contaminating than underground mining. It is very crucial to determine conserved and protcted areas while being exposed to industrial zones and their contaminations. Figure 3 demonstrates the excessive coal plants located in Alberta and British Columbia and is an example of jeopardy to conserved areas.
Potential risks for ecosystem
2.1 Coal resources impact on ecosystem
Water is one the basic needs of the mining industry. Only 2.5% of earth’s water consists of freshwater of which 98.8% is glaciated. Thus the actual and available water resources for humans are restricted. All the operations of mining, directly or indirectly require water for their operational functions. The mining industry has been utilizing water carelessly without anticipating the negative impacts it is having on the ecology and the bio-diversity of the region. Acid mine drainage has become a common phenomenon associated with mining. As far as concerned, water pollution due to industrial activities should be prohibited in the best possible manner and coal mines has this significant impact on environment.
One of the essential action plans is water quality assessment, especially in heavy industry sector. Water quality analysis in nearby water resources to mines, gives a general overview of the quality of water present in the mines. It helps identify the areas of concern, the parameters which are most harmful, contaminants which pollute the most and the areas which cause the contamination.(Singh, 1988)
2.2 Mining process and industry impact on ecosystem
Water as a resource is integral to process of extraction of coal both from surface and underground mines. Many of mining functioning relies on water supplies such such as coal cutting in underground mines, dust suppression, coal preparation, coal washing, domestic use in mines, etc. The mines usually salvage the ground water to meet their demands and in the absence of ground water, they acquire water from the nearby water resources.(Tiwary, 2001) The adjacent water systems to coal mines with specification of provinces are provided in the Table 2.
Coal mining activities can directly affect the quality of the water or indirectly through processes which may show their consequences at a later stage in the life of the mine. The gravity of the impact of these activities depend on a number of factors like the geology of the area, the mineral constituents of the coal, the composition of the overburden, scale of operations, rainfall distribution, etc. Some of the major sources of water pollution in coal mining areas are listed as below.
2.2.1 Mine water drainage/Acid mine drainage
Coal seams sometimes contain high concentration of pyrites. This substance will undergo oxidation in presence of water and oxygen to give sulphuric acid and consequently increasing the acidity and pH of the water used. This water contaminates the other water bodies and the ground water when it is discharged from the mine. Figure 4 and Figure 5 discuss the pH level in Alberta and Nova Scotia water resources respectively.(Wright, Belmer, & Davies, 2017)
2.2.5 Sewage discharges
The water used in mines are mostly contaminated with different substances and are not treated before it is discharged to the water streams. It can permeate through the soils and contaminate other water bodies. This incident may lead to unrecoverable circumstances and threatens ecosystem and human life. (Tiwary, 2001)
3 Water quality index in Canada
Canada is among the most industrialized countries. Industrialization often leads to mismanagement of resources, especially environmental resources. Thus, it is significant to consider ecosystem protection as well as industrial development. Figure 10 and Figure 11 explain Canada’s water quality index among other developed countries.
4 Methodology for water quality assessment
The critical situation requires carrying out water analysis of all the water bodies in and around the mines to determine the source, cause, effect and remedies of the different contaminants and pollutants.
The parameters that were determined for this purpose are temperature, pH, conductivity, TDS1, DO2, BOD3, turbidity, acidity, sulphates, phosphates, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and other trace metals.
Almost every water body is polluted to an alarming level. The estimation of quality of water is extremely important for proper assessment of the associated hazards. The extensive mining activities also adversely affect the environment. Due to lack of proper planning and negligence of regulations an appreciable amount of environmental degradation and ecological damage to water air, and soil occurs.
4.1 Significant parameters for water quality experiments
Temperature plays an important role in controlling chemical and biological processes that occurs in aqueous phase. Also, oxygen content relies directly on water temperature and will decrease by increase in temperature. For example, it can directly affect the photosynthesis of aquatic plants, the metabolism rates of organisms.
Polluted water can affect the biodiversity of the area. Increase or decrease in pH of the water can affect or prevent the growth of the plants in the area. Similarly, increase in other physical and chemical parameters directly or indirectly affect vegetation of the area. With no vegetation and contaminated water the wildlife also faces the brunt. Figure 12 and Figure 13 discuss the pH and dissolved oxygen level in Alberta water resources.
2.2.2 Loose material runoffs
The process of mining is usually associated with generation of large amount of dust and, the mineral and overburden excavated are converted to loose material. Winds pick up these dust particles along with loose material and deposit them on water bodies. Loose material is also carried by the streams running through the mines which eventually meet the main course or end into a water reservoir causing pollution in both cases. (Singh, 1988)
Figure 6 shows the average fine particulate matter (FPM) concentration in Alberta and British Columbia.
2.2.4 Pollutant leaching from overburden dump
Overburden dump is the waste material which must be removed before the mineral resources can be retrieved. The waste materials can contain pollutants in the form of heavy metals of other chemicals which may leach out during the rains and pollute the surrounding areas. Since there is high CO2 air emission close to coal facilities, acid rains can occur and worsen the leaching process. Figure 8 and Figure 9 show the ionic compound concentration of metals in Alberta water resources.
2.2.3 Oil and fuel spills
Oils and fuels are used for the machinery and equipment used in the mining operations. These oils and fuel sometimes leak away or washed off during cleaning and maintenance. The water used for washing or during rains, these oils and fuels contaminate the nearby water bodies. Figure 7 shows CO emission near to coal facilities. (Tiwary, 2001)