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Cleaning up after mining operations

Throughout the former Eastern Europe, landfills from mining operations constitute a serious environmental and health hazard. Slovakia’s clean-up efforts include finding a solution for a ten-hectare landfill near the town of Krompachy.
The reddish, greenish and copper-toned patches of earth tell their own depressing story: this ten-hectare landfill near the town of Krompachy, Slovakia, is saturated with metalliferous sludge from nearby mining operations. The high concentrations of copper, manganese, zinc and cyanide are threatening to contaminate the local aquatic environment.

With help from COWI and financing by DANCEE (Danish Cooperation for Environment in Eastern Europe), Krompachy is now looking at ways to make the landfill safe for the environment and the health of the population.

Cleansing not an option

The Halna landfill near Krompachy is far from being the only one of its kind. Similar landfills exist throughout the former Eastern Europe – and they all need to be made safe. Earth cleansing of landfill sites such as Halna is prohibitively expensive and thus not a feasible option.

COWI project manager Ole Sinkjær goes on: "It would be far too expensive, because the area to be cleansed is enormous. Nor can the site ever be suitable for housing development. We must find a solution whereby we can safely contain the contaminated sludge, and the local authorities are considering the possibility of utilising the area as an extension to an adjoining industrial site."

Overview of the damage

The first stage for COWI is to establish an overview of the environmental and health problems posed by the landfill.

"´When use of the site as a landfill ended in 2000, it was not sealed off. People still have access to it and walk across it, and local gypsy residents come here and use the old sulphuric acid baths for outdoor bathing. A piped stream runs through the landfill and we know that some of the substances found in the landfill are seeping into the river that runs through town. But we lack an overview of the extent of the damage and the risk of further damage," adds Ole Sinkjær.

Possibility of recycling

COWI will also examine whether any of the waste contains such high concentrations of metal that the metal can be extracted and recycled. In addition, COWI will suggest possible solution models which could include enclosing the landfill with embedded sheet piling and perhaps sealing it with a surface membrane.

Finally, an important element in the project is to help Krompachy localise sources of financing to pay for the solution model decided upon.

By: Janne Toft Jensen
Published: 13.04.2004 

LAST UPDATED: 16.09.2016