US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Mine Water Environ (2008) 27:86–99.


Acidic mine drainage (AMD) containing elevated concentrations of dissolved iron and other metals can be neutralized to varying degrees by reactions with limestone in passive treatment systems. We evaluated the chemical and mineralogical characteristics and the effectiveness of calcitic and dolomitic limestone for the neutralization of net-acidic, oxic, iron-laden AMD from a flooded anthracite mine. The calcitic limestone, with CaCO3 and MgCO3 contents of 99.8 and <0.1 wt%, respectively, and the dolomitic limestone, with CaCO3 and MgCO3 contents of 60.3 and 40.2 wt%, were used to construct a downflow treatment system in 2003 at the Bell Mine, a large source of AMD and baseflow to the Schuylkill River in the Southern Anthracite Coalfield, in east-central Pennsylvania. In the winter of 2002–2003, laboratory neutralization-rate experiments evaluated the evolution of effluent quality during 2 weeks of continuous contact between AMD from the Bell Mine and the crushed calcitic or dolomitic limestone in closed, collapsible containers (cubitainers). The cubitainer tests showed that: (1) net-alkaline effluent could be achieved with detention times greater than 3 h, (2) effluent alkalinities and associated dissolution rates were equivalent for uncoated and Fe(OH)3-coated calcitic limestone, and (3) effluent alkalinities and associated dissolution rates for dolomitic limestone were about half those for calcitic limestone. The dissolution rate data for the cubitainer tests were used with data on the volume of effuent and surface area of limestone in the treatment system at the Bell Mine to evaluate the water-quality data for the first 1.5 years of operation of the treatment system. These rate models supported the interpretation of field results and indicated that treatment benefits were derived mainly from the dissolution of calcitic limestone, despite a greater quantity of dolomitic limestone within the treatment system. The dissolution-rate models were extrapolated on a decadal scale to indicate the expected decreases in the mass of limestone and associated alkalinities resulting from the long-term reaction of AMD with the treatment substrate. The models indicated the calcitic limestone would need to be replenished approaching the 5-year anniversary of treatment operations to maintain net-alkaline effluent quality.