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Reclamation of acid-generating waste rock by in-pit backfilling and sealing: An evaluation of the Kimheden mine site, northern Sweden
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering, Geosciences and Environmental Engineering.
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The notion of mine site reclamation is very recent compared to the history of mining. In thepast, mine sites were left as is following termination of the operations, but modern regulationsrequire anticipation of long-term contamination of the surrounding environment and return ofthe land to a sustainable use. A primary concern for mines used to extract sulphide-rich ores isthe generation of acid mine drainage (AMD), a low-pH and metal-rich solution formed whensulphidic mining wastes and mining surfaces come into contact with oxygen and water. AMDmay be responsible for the contamination of watercourses and other receiving environments fardownstream of the site. Thus, reclamation at such sites will usually involve measures intendedto prevent or mitigate its generation. Despite their relatively recent introduction, the increasingtime that has passed since the first prevention and mitigation programmes were applied at minesites, some two to three decades ago, provides an invaluable opportunity to assess their long-termeffects on the abatement of AMD.Reclamation at the Kimheden copper mine in Västerbotten, northern Sweden, involved theprogressive backfilling of two small open pits with waste rock and application of a dry cover in1996, in order to reduce the influx of atmospheric oxygen into the waste. The objective of thestudies this thesis is based upon, performed in 2009 – 2014, was to evaluate the effects of thesereclamation measures on the abatement of Cu and Zn-rich AMD and to identify potential inadequaciesin them, using geochemical, geophysical and hydrogeological methods.The results show that despite large reductions in Cu and Zn concentrations in the receivingstream following reclamation, its water quality has remained in a steady state for about a decadeand is still not considered satisfactory for discharge into the natural environment. Steady-statemoderately high concentrations in the stream, together with a relatively short turnover time forwater in contact with the waste rock, indicate that sulphide oxidation is continuing in the backfilldespite the cover. Hydrogeochemical modelling suggests that the rate of oxygen consumption bysulphide oxidation in the waste rock is higher than the expected rate of diffusion through the drycover. Substantial ingress of oxygen into the waste was also corroborated by stable isotope measurements and direct measurements of dissolved oxygen concentrations in the groundwater of the backfill. According to sulphate isotope distributions in the mine drainage, oxidation of pyrite by Fe(III) constantly rejuvenated by oxidation of Fe(II) with oxygen is suspected to be an importantprocess in the covered backfill. Potential sources of oxygen transport into the waste have been explored. Mapping of the groundwater table in one of the backfilled open pits showed that up to 40 % of the waste rock is unsaturated during baseflow, providing pathways for oxygen to enter through unsaturated fractures in the pit walls. Two sources of deterioration of the dry cover were identified during geophysical surveys: seepage of drainage water from the backfilled waste upwards into the dry cover and insufficient thickness of the cover in some areas. Geophysical and hydrogeochemical studies showed that the collection ditch constructed to divert the contaminated water to a liming treatment station fails to retain a large fraction of the drainage.Based on the results obtained, the sustainability of current approaches for AMD prevention andmitigation is discussed, and possible strategies for improving backfilling and sealing measures atsimilar sites are proposed.Keywords Acid mine drainage or acid and metalliferous drainage (AMD) or acid rock drainage(ARD); mine site reclamation; open pit; sulphidic waste rock; backfilling; dry cover; performance;unsaturated.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Luleå tekniska universitet, 2014.
Doctoral thesis / Luleå University of Technology 1 jan 1997 → …, ISSN 1402-1544
Research subject
Applied Geology
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-26508Local ID: e94cfeb2-0265-4262-a83f-d95c903b1c11ISBN: 978-91-7583-085-8ISBN: 978-91-7583-086-5 (PDF)OAI: diva2:999671
Godkänd; 2014; 20141016 (lucvyl); Nedanstående person kommer att disputera för avläggande av teknologie doktorsexamen. Namn: Lucile Villain Ämne: Tillämpad geologi/Applied Geology Avhandling: Reclamation of Acid-Generating Waste Rock by In-Pit Backfilling and Sealing - An Evaulation of the Kimheden Mine Site, Northern Sweden Opponent: Professor Bernhard Dold, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile Ordförande: Professor Lena Alakangas, Avd för geovetenskap och miljöteknik, Institutionen för samhällsbyggnad och naturresurser, Luleå tekniska universitet Tid: Fredag den 12 december 2014, kl 10.00 Plats: E632, Luleå tekniska universitetAvailable from: 2016-09-30 Created: 2016-09-30Bibliographically approved

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