Proglacial mines, meaning mining operations adjacent to, or very close to, glaciers, face a variety of unique glaciological challenges not present in conventional mining operations: (1) Removing ice overburden to access a subglacial ore introduces both ice excavation and ice flow management challenges. (2) In addition to potential crevasse hazards, supraglacial vehicle access roads must use adaptive engineering to counteract ice movement (both horizontal and vertical) as well as differential surface ablation. (3) Tremendous glacier meltwater runoff, concentrated during the summer melt season, can be difficult to route across highly transient glacier surfaces in order to minimize site inflow/contact water. (4) The dust created by open pit operations or access roads can darken the surface of nearby glaciers, enhancing their solar absorption and surface melt rates, and ultimately expand the impact footprint of a mine. (5) The catastrophic drainage of supraglacial and/or ice-dammed lakes represent outburst flood hazards which can rapidly increase site inflow rates. (6) Subglacial hydrology can interact with the groundwater seepage in underground mining operations beneath glaciers. We touch on some of these glaciological hazards in the new textbook: “Snow and Ice-Related Hazards, Risks, and Disasters”. These geotechnical challenges make proglacial mining projects very unique. I started this “open file” inventory of proglacial mining projects (past, present and future) and their associated glaciological challenges as I pull together information for an applied glaciology review paper. Please alert me to any errors or oversights!
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Below are some site overview figures, they are available for distribution without attribution tags as well. I hope to make one for each project by the end of 2015. Content on this page can be cited as:
Colgan, W., H. Thomsen and M. Citterio. in press. Unique Applied Glaciology Challenges of Proglacial Mining. Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland Bulletin.
Figure 1 – The Isua Mine in Greenland: Contemporary ice margins, proposed approximate pit area, and winter 2005/06 ice surface velocity vectors overlaid on a 2014 Landsat image.
Figure 2 – The Kumtor mine in Kyrgyzstan: Historic ice margins and contemporary mine area overlaid on a 2014 Landsat image.
Figure 3 – The Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell Mine and Bruckjack Prospect in Canada: Contemporary ice margins, approximate mine surface areas, and proposed supraglacial access roads overlaid on a 2014 Landsat image.
Figure 4 – The El Morro mine in Chile: Contemporary ice margins and mine area overlaid on a 2014 Landsat image.
Figure 5 – The Pascua Lama mine on the Chile/Argentina border: Contemporary ice margins and mine area overlaid on a 2014 Landsat image. The Valadero mine is also visible immediately south of the Pascua Lama mine.
Figure 6 – The Svea Nord / Gruve Mines in Svalbard (Norway): Contemporary ice margins and underground mine area overlaid on a 2014 Landsat image.
Figure 7 – Grasberg Mine in Indonesia: Contemporary mine area and ice margins in a 2003 Landsat image.