EarthFax conducted a hydrogeologic investigation at a surface coal mine located about 100 km north of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East. This project was conducted under a grant from the EcoLinks program of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Large quantities of groundwater were flowing uncontrolled into the mine, creating safety hazards due to instability of pit walls and spoil piles. Concern had also been expressed by the Russian Academy of Sciences that water being discharged from the mine was adversely impacting the quality of water in Khanka Lake, an important ecological preserve located about 70 km downstream from the mine.
EarthFax evaluated data collected at the site by the Russian Academy of Sciences, conducted field investigations, and interviewed mine personnel familiar with the local hydrogeology. Based on these efforts, we designed dewatering wells to intercept the groundwater before it could flow into the mine, thereby eliminating the safety and environmental concerns. Given the high background quality of groundwater and the fact that past mine dewatering had lowered the water table in the region sufficiently that public water-supply wells had been rendered useless, we recommended that water pumped from the dewatering wells be delivered to nearby communities for their domestic use. We also recommended that the heat from the pumped groundwater be recovered to heat mine buildings and nearby residences.
Our field observations also indicated an area of excessive erosion in the mine runoff-control network. As a result, we designed a nick-point control structure to remedy the problem. We prepared all designs in a manner that would allow local resources and materials to be used for construction.