UA UA Binational Center Brings Together Experts and Regulators to Assess Impacts of Acid Mine Drainage

The University of Arizona’s (UA) US-Mexico Binational Center for Environmental Sciences and Toxicology (Binational Center) coordinated a workshop in Taxco, Guerrero, Mexico titled,  “Acid Mine Drainage: Characterization, Remediation, and Human Health Effects”, February 8-10, 2010.  Dr. Oscar Talavera Mendoza and his team from the Autonomous University of Guerrero (UAG) hosted the workshop.  There were over 200 attendees including the 11 Mexican partners of the UA Binational Center; officials from Mexico’s Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources and the US Environmental Protection Agency; acid mine drainage experts from Spain, Mexico, and Chile; representatives from international mining industries (Grupo Mexico, Peñoles); as well as undergraduate and graduate students from surrounding universities.

The Workshop goal was to provide the most pertinent scientific information regarding acid mine drainage.The first portion addressed characterization of acid mine drainage and its potential sources.  Presenters discussed case studies investigating mineralogy composition and biogeochemical processes in order to better understand acid mine drainage processes. The second portion examined the impacts to human health.  Evidence was presented which suggests that there is risk associated with metal exposure. Part three focused on remediation technologies that have been implemented in the US, Mexico, Spain, and Chile. Treatments presented ranged from sulfate reducing bacteria to reactive barriers.  The last portion of the workshop consisted of US and Mexican policy regarding mine tailings and associated contamination.                 

The Taxco area contains some of the oldest mines in North America.  The participants toured the “El Fraile” mine tailings in order to better understand local issues regarding acid mine drainage.  Investigators from UAG and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, as well as representatives from Grupo Mexico, led the tour where they discussed remedial actions underway at the site.

The workshop was an overall success not only because it brought together experts from industry, government, and academia but also due to the high number of Mexican students attending.  It demonstrated the significance of collaborative, multidisciplinary efforts when it comes to environmental issues, which is extremely important for students to witness, as they will become the scientists in decision-making positions in the future.  Forthcoming workshops will further incorporate multiple perspectives to environmental themes demonstrating the various pieces involved in resolving these complex issues.