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Minerals 2017, 7(7), 128; doi:10.3390/min7070128

Sustainable Reuse of Mine Tailings and Waste Rock as Water-Balance Covers

Civil & Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
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Received: 1 June 2017 / Revised: 7 July 2017 / Accepted: 18 July 2017 / Published: 24 July 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Minerals in Mine Wastes: Contributions to the Circular Economy)
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Abstract

The focus of this study was to evaluate the potential reuse of mixed mine tailings and waste rock in water-balance covers (WBCs). Reuse of mine waste in geoengineering applications can provide an economic advantage via offsetting raw material requirements and reducing waste volumes to manage. Water-balance covers are designed to minimize percolation and/or oxygen ingress into underlying waste via moisture retention while also providing resistance against slope failure and erosion of cover materials. Water-balance simulations were conducted using a variably-saturated one-dimensional numerical model to assess hydrologic behavior of an actual WBC as well as hypothetical mixed mine waste WBCs. The actual water balance cover included a 1.22-m-thick silty-sand storage layer and a 0.15-m-thick topsoil layer. Three scenarios were evaluated via hydrologic modeling that focused on replacing the actual storage layer with a layer of mine waste: (1) storage layers were simulated as 1.22-m-thick layers of pure mine tailings (i.e., copper, gold, coal, and oil sand tailings); (2) storage layers were simulated as 1.22-m-thick layers of mixed mine tailings and waste rock; and (3) mixed mine tailings and waste rock storage layer thicknesses were redesigned to yield comparable percolation rates as the actual cover. View Full-Text
Keywords: covers; hydrology; sustainability; tailings; waste rock covers; hydrology; sustainability; tailings; waste rock
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Gorakhki, M.H.; Bareither, C.A. Sustainable Reuse of Mine Tailings and Waste Rock as Water-Balance Covers. Minerals 2017, 7, 128.

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