Waste rock piles (WRPs) are commonly remediated with cover systems to limit water and oxygen influx and mitigate the impacts of acid mine drainage (AMD) on the environment. While numerous types of cover systems exist, simple, single-layer soil covers remain an attractive option due to their low cost and simplicity of installation. Since knowledge of their long-term performance in humid climates is limited, this study was undertaken to assess and predict a single-layer cover system at a WRP in Nova Scotia, Canada. A two-dimensional finite element model was developed to simulate variably saturated flow and solute transport at the WRP and surrounding area. Key parameters collected during five years of field monitoring, including moisture contents, groundwater levels and dissolved metal concentrations, were used to produce a well-calibrated and verified model. Early results confirm that the cover system has already decreased AMD into both groundwater (reduced water infiltration/seepage in the WRP) and surface water (eliminated contaminated surface water runoff). Long-term acidity depletion rates indicate that all sulphidic minerals within the pile will be oxidized within 34 years, but due to the slow leaching rates into water, it will take over 9000 years to deplete all acidity. Numerical simulations predict the evolution of groundwater and surface water quality over time until full acidity depletion. Current work involves kinetic tests on waste rock samples to more accurately access the annual generation and release of AMD.
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