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Expert suggests biotech solution to abate mining pollution

Bhubaneswar: Mining plays a significant role in the economic development of countries, but it also poses environmental threats, which, if not mitigated employing advanced technology, could lead to destruction of habitats, an expert has said.

Odisha, with its vast resources, is one of the foremost mineral-rich states, where application of advanced biotechnology could abate pollution to a large extent, said K A Natarajan, emeritus professor in the department of materials engineering at Indian Institute of Science (IISC), Bengaluru.

Natarajan, while addressing a conference here recently on green technologies, also maintained that cyanide in aqueous discharges, treatment of high-volume mine water containing low concentrations of metal and other contaminations can have severe impact on the ecosystem. “In Sukinda area of Jajpur, known for its chromite reserves, acid rock drainage is posing a potential threat to the health of the locals. The chromium from the ores has contaminated the groundwater in the region,” he said.

Acid rock drainage (ARD) is the result of oxidation or rusting of certain types of sulfur-bearing minerals in the presence of water, air and bacteria.

The professor suggested active and passive biotechnology solutions to deal with the environmental hazards caused due to mining activities.

“In active treatment, a biotech plant is engineered and operated to maximise pollution mitigation by optimising activities of microbiological species. The passive system relies on activities of biological species within a natural setting and involves aerobic precipitation, anaerobic sulfide precipitation, ammonia generated neutralization, absorption and ion exchange,” he added.

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