Justification

Mining operations generally produce lots of wastes, including
mine tailings, waste rock and assay crucibles. Tailings in particular act as a
major source of environmental contamination (Rousel
et al, 2000). As a result, heavy metals may be solubilized as a result of
inadequate oxidation of the ore when there is continual bacteria action on the
tailings(Jeng et al, 2005). Apart
from this, flood damages and ground subsidence for example, have occurred at
the Obuasi mine several times due to unequipped, dilapidated facility for
prevention of the damage. For instance, in 2005, incidents of tailings spillage
due to old dilapidated dams, each of which resulted in serious environmental
issues in Obuasi has been experienced and recorded (Bempah et al, 2013). Such spillage can cause reduced production
levels of farm produce (fear of farming on such lands due to contamination from
the tailings) and reddish colour of vegetation in the area as well as the
nature of some portions of the land could be affected (Kumi-Boateng, 2007).

 

This problem of tailings disposal requires scientific and
systematical approach in reviewing the whole disposal of BIOX slurry to
tailings dam. The major problem with the discharge of the waste from this
technology is the likelihood of some of the heavy metals leaching out to join
underground water when there is dam breakdown or overflow. Un-oxidized
sulphides may be discharged which can result in continual oxidation, decreasing
the pH in the tailings environment with time. Since the entire BIOX process
occurs at low pH, other heavy metals such as arsenic, iron, copper, cadmium,
lead and zinc which are pushed to the tailings dam after neutralization may be
mobilized and readily available in solution. Hence there is the need to look at
the stability of these metals in the tailings under different environmental
conditions. It is hoped that the understanding gained will help in the
formulation of strategies, which will help to improve the discharge of tailings
from the BIOX process.

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In this study, total
concentrations of As and other selected heavy metals in mine tailings from the
tailings dam of the Sansu Sulphide Treatment Plant at Obuasi, Ghana, under
different pH conditions will be determined.

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