4.15 Bioremediation – what survives, thrives
In Section 4.13, you were told that nothing survives in the toxic, acidic conditions of Parys Mountain, but that’s not quite right. Some organisms really thrive. They’re quite odd bacteria that can survive in the extreme conditions (hence they’re part of a group called extremophiles) that are found there, and they do that by utilising the acidic conditions and high levels of dissolved metals to live. They live naturally in places like the streams that leave Parys Mountain and, as a by-product of their lifecycle, they actually reduce the acidity of the water and strip out the toxic metals.
There is ongoing work that looks at using the sorts of bacteria that thrive in mine sites to treat the waters that leave the sites. They have many advantages over neutralisation – not least that as they reproduce themselves, constant addition of neutralising materials isn’t required. There’s real hope that bioremediation can really solve a lot of AMD problems.