Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 18, pp 17575–17589 | Cite as

Performance assessment of laboratory and field-scale multi-step passive treatment of iron-rich acid mine drainage for design improvement

  • Tsiverihasina V. Rakotonimaro
  • Carmen Mihaela Neculita
  • Bruno Bussière
  • Thomas Genty
  • Gérald J. Zagury
Research Article


Multi-step passive systems for the treatment of iron-rich acid mine drainage (Fe-rich AMD) perform satisfactorily at the laboratory scale. However, their field-scale application has revealed dissimilarities in performance, particularly with respect to hydraulic parameters. In this study, the assessment of factors potentially responsible for the variations in performance of laboratory and field-scale multi-step systems was undertaken. Three laboratory multi-step treatment scenarios, involving a combination of dispersed alkaline substrate (DAS) units, anoxic dolomitic drains, and passive biochemical reactors (PBRs), were set up in 10.7-L columns. The field-scale treatment consisted of two PBRs separated by a wood ash (WA) reactor. The parameters identified as possibly influencing the performances of the laboratory and field-scale experiments were the following: AMD chemistry (electrical conductivity and Fe and SO42− concentrations), flow rate (Q), and saturated hydraulic conductivity (ksat). Based on these findings, the design of an efficient passive multi-step treatment system is suggested to consider the following: (1) Fe pretreatment, using materials with high ksat and low HRT. If a PBR is to be used, the Fe load should be < 26 g/m3 substrate/day (Fe < 200 mg/L) and SO42− < 110 g/m3 substrate/day; (2) PBR/DAS filled with a mixture with at least 20% of neutralizing agent; (3) include Q and ksat (> 10−3 cm/s) in the long-term prediction. Finally, mesocosm testing is strongly recommended prior to construction of full-scale systems for the treatment of Fe-rich AMD.


Fe-rich acid mine drainage Passive treatment design Dispersed alkaline substrate Scale effects 



Anoxic limestone drains


Acid mine drainage


Dispersed alkaline substrate


Anoxic dolomitic drain


Field multi-step treatment


Hydraulic retention time


Iron-reducing bacteria


Laboratory multi-step treatment


Passive biochemical reactor


Wood ash-dispersed alkaline substrate


Sulfate-reducing bacteria


Cover with capillary barrier effect


Funding information

This study was funded by NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada), grant no. 469489-14, MERN (Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources Naturelles—Québec’s Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources), and the industrial partners of RIME UQAT-Polytechnique Montréal, including Agnico Eagle, Canadian Malartic Mine, Iamgold, Raglan Mine-Glencore, and Rio Tinto. The authors want to thank sincerely Marc Paquin, Mélanie Bélanger, Patrick Bernèche, Joël Beauregard, and Alain Perreault for technical assistance during the laboratory and field experiments.

Supplementary material

11356_2018_1820_MOESM1_ESM.docx (3 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 3035 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tsiverihasina V. Rakotonimaro
    • 1
  • Carmen Mihaela Neculita
    • 1
  • Bruno Bussière
    • 1
  • Thomas Genty
    • 1
  • Gérald J. Zagury
    • 2
  1. 1.Research Institute on Mines and Environment (RIME)-University of Québec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT)Rouyn-NorandaCanada
  2. 2.RIME, Department of Civil, Geological, and Mining EngineeringPolytechnique Montréal MontréalCanada

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