The University of Arizona’s Dean Carter Binational Center for Environmental Health Sciences (Binational Center) coordinated a specialized workshop in Taxco, Mexico in conjunction with Dr. Oscar Talavera Mendoza and his team from the Autonomous University of Guerrero (UAG). The title of the workshop was, “Acid Mine Drainage: Characterization, Remediation, and Human Health Effects” and it took place from February 8-10, 2010. Over 200 attendees were present that included the 11 Mexican partners of the Binational Center; officials from Mexico’s Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) ; acid mine drainage experts from Spain, Mexico, and Chile; representatives from international mining industries (Grupo Mexico, Peñoles); as well as undergraduate and graduate students from UAG and other regional universities.
The Workshop goal was to provide the most pertinent scientific information regarding acid mine drainage. Specifically, it addressed the characterization of acid mine drainage and its potential sources. Presenters discussed case studies focused on mineralogy composition and biogeochemical processes, which better describe what is involved in acid mine drainage development. Also, the impacts to human health were examined by Mexican toxicologist working on epidemiological studies. In addition, remediation technologies that have been implemented in the U.S., Mexico, Spain, and Chile were demonstrated. Treatments scenarios ranged from sulfate reducing bacteria to reactive barriers. As part of the workshop, participants toured the “El Fraile” mine tailings in order to better understand the issues at a local level. Investigators from UAG and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, as well as representatives from Grupo Mexico, led the tour where they talked about remedial actions underway at the site. Lastly, the workshop incorporated U.S. and Mexican mining and associated environmental impact policies. Mining representatives from both US EPA and SEMARNAT refined this critical component of the lectures, emphasizing the need to strengthen laws and implementation.
The workshop was an example to participating students of the collaborative, multidisciplinary efforts that are needed to resolve complex environmental issues. The policy component of the workshop too many of these future engineers, environmental scientists, and geologists, was innovative especially since most have not yet witnessed how it integrates into real world science. A lot of them were able to make professional connections to further their knowledge and expand the ideas they learn in school.