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AMD Pigments (resource)

Dates of Use: 2016–present day

Source: Polluted streams in Ohio

Chemical Name: Anhydrous iron (III) oxide

Formula: Fe2O3


  • Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) pigments were developed by artist John Sabraw and environmental engineer Guy Reifler. They are both professors at Ohio University. Sabraw and Reifler partner with a company in Ohio called True Pigments. This company transforms pollution into paints that can be used to create art. 
  • AMD pigments are made from the water in streams polluted by abandoned coal mines. Scientists collect and treat the polluted water to create AMD pigments.
  • These pigments are made from iron oxide, which is chemically identical to red ochre. Red ochre is considered to be the world’s first red pigment. It is the earliest-known pigment used by our ancestors.
  • AMD pigments are chemically stable and fade-resistant.
Pollution to Pigments

Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) pigments are made from water polluted by abandoned coal mines. When groundwater seeps into the mines, it becomes highly acidic. This acidic water then dissolves minerals that contain iron. The iron in the water creates dead zones in streams and wetlands. These are areas where no plants or animals can live. To create AMD pigments, scientists collect and treat the polluted water. The iron is removed, and this process reduces the water’s acidity level. The iron that is extracted from the polluted water is used to create iron oxide pigments. The clean water is returned to the stream. Then the pigments are sold to help fund the project.

AMD in America

There are more than 23,000 abandoned mines in the United States, according to records maintained by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies these mines as the main source of acid mine drainage (AMD). AMD contaminates drinking water, disrupts the growth of plants and animals, and corrodes infrastructure like bridges. The federal government has been attempting to reduce acid mine drainage since 1977. It still remains a health and environmental hazard in America, especially in Appalachia.

Watch a video to learn more about AMD pigments and the True Pigments project!