Green technology pilot treating acid mine water in Montenegro’s North
Small community, consisting of just a little bit more than eight thousands people living in a post-mining town in the north of Montenegro, has been gradually opening its doors for environmentally friendly development.
Although with high nature potentials (two National Parks on its territory, one of which is a world heritage site) and great opportunities for nature based tourism (kayaking, hiking, biking) the Municipality of Mojkovac was for a long time considered as the black environmental spot on the map of Montenegro.
- The system will use no source of power, therefore eliminating the production of greenhouse gases, and no artificial chemical additives in treating the contaminated mine water.
- So called passive system for treating acid mine waters will be using natural materials readily available in the region, such as limestone and organic matter to remove contamination from water.
- This green technology pilot will act as a regional demonstration of eco-friendly water treatment technologies to be used at similar abandoned mining sites found throughout the Western Balkans.
After the Lead and Zink mine “Brskovo” seized its operations by the end of ’80, Mojkovac, once considered as developed industrial city, has been slowly turned into the environmental hot spot and experienced significant decline in all development aspects (economic, social and environmental) ever since.
UNDP Montenegro through the Regional EnvSec Programme and in co-operation with the Mojkovac Municipality and the Czech Trust Fund, has recently completed construction of a green technology water treatment facility to treat acid mine water in Montenegro’s North and reverse the ecological damage caused by past mining practices.
This green technology pilot will act as a regional demonstration of eco-friendly water treatment technologies to be used at similar abandoned mining sites found throughout the Western Balkans. It is unique in requiring no source of power, therefore eliminating the production of greenhouse gases, and no artificial chemical additives in treating the contaminated mine water. Instead natural materials readily available in the region, such as limestone and organic matter, are used to remove contamination from the water.
While the treatment plant is still being commissioned, it has already been visited by a high level Kosovo Delegation, with representatives from Trepča Mining Company, the Ministries of Environment and Economy and UNDP Kosovo who are interested in the application of such technology at similar mining problem sites in Kosovo. The site and technology were also be featured in a UNEP hosted regional workshop planned for November this year.
In further enhancing its commitment to building capacities and partnerships and thus creating opportunities for sustainable local economic development, UNDP is working with the Mojkovac Municipality and the Czech Trust Fund to study the environmental performance of this interesting example of green technology for a period of one year and incorporate this into a University Masters study to better explore the applications and improvements of such treatment systems.
Construction of this green technology pilot at “Žuta Prla” continues UNDP Montenegro active involvement in supporting Montenegro and Mojkovac Municipality move toward EU environmental standards, as part of a regional environmental improvement program, with most notably past contributions being toward the clean-up of the Tailing Mine Impoundment (Jalovište), establishment of the municipal sewerage treatment system and ongoing studies on mining related contamination.
Untreated the stream of highly acidic waters flowing out of the Žuta Prla mine entrance contains toxic contaminants such as lead, cadmium and zinc that are much higher than the EU environmental limits which for decades have flowed out of the mine entrance and into the environment without any treatment to prevent it from polluting the environment.
This flow of contaminated mine water also poses a risk to human health, as it passes close to local houses in the nearby community, were there is a high possibility of direct human contact. There is also the potential eco-damage this water poses as it flows into the Tara River, part of Durmitor National Park and protected as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This green pilot (i.e. Passive Water Treatment System for Acid Mine Drainage Project) is aimed at cleaning up this water contamination in an eco-friendly way.
Ms. Snežana Dragojević, Regional Programme Manager at the UNDP Montenegro’s Regional Programme for remediation of Environmental Hot Spots in the Western Balkans, explained the workings of the Passive Water Treatment system: “It uses the steep slope of the valley below the mine to move the mine water without external sources of power to three separate treatment stages connected by pipelines. In simple terms the water from the mine would stream through the series of channels, before being retained in each of the pools, where the acid, toxic metals and other harmful elements would react with the limestone and organic matter and precipitate out as mud, leaving the treated water to pass through the pipes and merge with a nearby forest creek. The environmental and performance monitoring that will follow in the coming year is expected to show the extent to which the water exiting the mine is cleaner once it enters into the environment.”
The Passive Water Treatment System and Acid Mine Drainage Project is the first of its kind in the region. There is, however, much more to be done on making Western Balkans mining sites environmentally friendly: the “Žuta Prla” tailing dam is neither the largest nor the most severe such site in this region – but there is virtue in the fact that it is the first to become eco-friendly.
Written by: Fedja Pavlovic, intern at the UNDP in Montenegro