ARIES Research Areas

ARIES Research Area 1
Assessment of Mining Impacts on Ecosystem Health and Diversity
Area Lead: Paul Ziemkiewicz

ARIES research area 1 will focus on determining the relative effects of natural background variations in constituents of concern, such as TDS and Se, versus the effects of land use history and mining disturbance on water quality, habitat quality and benthic macro-invertebrates in headwater streams, and on higher organisms (e.g. mollusks and fish) in lower reaches of receiving streams and the overall watershed. This will include evaluation of the influence of geology, seasonal and diurnal variability patterns and land use/disturbance effects. The in-stream study component data sets will be utilized to rigorously evaluate current and proposed regulatory standards (e.g. April 1, 2010 EPA Guidance vs. WV/VA Narrative Water Quality Standards) and related problematic policy issues such as stream degradation criteria.

ARIES Research Area 2
Treatment and Minimization of Constituent Discharges
Area Lead: Paul Ziemkiewicz

Although longer-term goals of this research are to optimize identification, handling and placement of mine spoils that may potentially contribute to degraded water quality, the industry will continue to face the need to minimize discharges of constituents of concern, including TDS and Se, at many existing operations and locations. Considerable research and technology development efforts are currently focused in this area to meet regulatory limits or minimize ecosystem effects. These methods may include, but are not limited to, chemical treatment, engineered bioreactors, wetland construction, infiltration trenches in un-mined ground, dilution/mixing with storm-water, and/or combinations of multiple technologies and mechanisms.

ARIES Research Area 3
Accurate Prediction of Constituent Releases by Overburden and Refuse
Area Lead: W. Lee Daniels

Historically, the Appalachian coal industry has been highly successful in developing technologies to identify, handle, treat and isolate potentially acid forming spoil materials at coal mines in the region. However, these techniques do not predict release potentials of TDS, Se and other constituents of concern from most overburden materials and in fact, frequently lead to spoil handling plans that actually increase TDS release due to blending of net acid-forming and alkaline strata together. The primary objective of this research (Area 3) is to develop new methods for characterizing and predicting constituent release potentials from coal overburden and refuse materials. Secondary objectives include the development of scaling factors to relate laboratory and field screening results to field conditions and corroboration of those predictions with actual field data sets. Initial efforts will focus on spoils that would be disposed of in backfills and valley fills, but refuse materials may be sampled and analyzed in a second phase of the program.

ARIES Research Area 4
Overburden Handling and Grading Designs and Methods
Area Lead: Richard Warner

Innovative methods for surface mine spoil handling and designs for spoil placement and fills will be developed, tested and validated to minimize both short- and long-term release of various constituents, particularly TDS and selenium.

ARIES Research Area 5
Next-Generation Design of Eco-Friendly Mining Systems
Area Lead: Michael Karmis

Future coal mining operations will be required to incorporate new design features and practices that can substantially reduce environmental impacts to achieve “low impact” mining. Increased levels of research and development will be necessary to ensure that the coal industry can design, permit, build, operate, reclaim and monitor these future mines in full compliance with increasingly stringent environmental performance standards. For this area, ARIES will focus the research on three basic facets of the coal mining system: surface mining operations; underground mining operations; and, preparation plants.

ARIES Research Area 6
Evaluating Impacts and Optimizing Contributions of Mining to Community Well-Being
Area Leads: John Craynon and Michael Karmis

Coal mining operations have the potential to positively or negatively impact community health and well-being in many ways. These impacts can be categorized into economic, sociologic, public health, and cultural impacts. A number of studies under this area will focus on research questions about what constitutes community well-being and how coal mining has impacted it, with the goal of identifying the actions that the coal industry, government and society should take to minimize the negative impacts and enhance the positive contributions.