Population exposure to cyanide vapour from gold mine tailings dams

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dc.contributor.advisor Prof. H.J. Annegarn en
dc.contributor.author Phakedi, Sholo Samuel Nkaelang
dc.date.accessioned 2011-06-22T10:45:05Z
dc.date.available 2011-06-22T10:45:05Z
dc.date.issued 2011-06-22T10:45:05Z
dc.date.submitted 2010-01-22
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10210/3709
dc.description M.Sc. en
dc.description.abstract Atmospheric emissions of dust and chemicals from gold mine tailings are ongoing environmental management issues on the Witwatersrand, where residential areas have developed in proximity to dumps. Residual amounts of cyanide, used as a chemical in the gold extraction process, are deposited with the mineral tailings. This study deals with the evaluation of population exposure to cyanide vapour emitted from gold mine tailings dams, an issue of environmental impact and public health concern. The first part of this study deals with the determination of the emission factors of cyanide vapour from three selected gold mine tailings dams: one under reclamation; one no longer operational; and one fully operational as a slimes deposition site. These three sites are located in the Boksburg area of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality. Twelve samples were collected in all: six from the Cason (2628AAL91) mine dump (under reclamation in 2006); four from the ERPM tailings complex [comprising the dormant deposits 4/L/47, 4/L/48, 4/L/49 and 4/L/50, which are north of the N17 national highway; and the 2628ACL1 deposit, which is south of the N17]; and two from the Rooikraal (active) deposition site. All samples were collected in the year 2006. In the second part of the study, the obtained emission factors were used in an Industrial Source Complex dispersion model to measure the degree of population exposure to cyanide vapour for communities that are in proximity to the operational gold mine tailings dams in the Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality. In the third part, a health risk assessment was carried out for communities in proximity to the selected gold mine tailings dams. The study revealed the average flux (± std. dev.) of Cason to be (4.7 ± 0.8) x 10-7 g m-2 s-1, the average flux of ERPM (3.9 ± 0.6) x 10-7 g m-2 s-1, the average flux of Rooikraal (1.7 ± 0.2) x 10-5 g m-2 s-1. The concentrations of cyanide vapour emitted from the older tailings deposits (sand) that are under reclamation and the dormant slimes dams are very low (and pose little health risk to occupants of adjacent land). However, HCN emission factors from operational tailings dams, which are receiving continuous depositions, are 3 to 80 times higher than the emission factors from dormant mine tailings. Ambient cyanide concentrations near the active tailings deposits may sometimes exceed selected international health standards. The average hourly, daily and annual dispersion model calculations for the Nasrec tailings deposition sites in Johannesburg revealed that 117 938, 18 722 and 8 130 people respectively were exposed to hydrogen cyanide concentrations that were above international (Ontario, Canada) standards. This raises environmental concerns that require institution of cyanide monitoring and setting of emission limits applicable to South African legal and environmental circumstances. These conclusions are based on a small number of emission factor determinations and hence these findings should be regarded as provisional. Further testing and verification are required for emission factors from a larger number of dormant, reworked and active tailings dams. en
dc.language.iso en en
dc.subject Air pollution en
dc.subject Cyanide wastes en
dc.subject Tailings dams en
dc.subject Gold mines and mining en
dc.title Population exposure to cyanide vapour from gold mine tailings dams en
dc.type Thesis en

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