Geotechnical and Environmental Aspects of Heap Leach Design, Operation and Closure

Bronson B,
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1994
The geotechnical and environmental aspects of heap leaching are very closely tied during design, operations and closure. Potential environmental impacts from heap leaching are mostly due to land disturbance and water quality issues, including both groundwater and surface water. Water quality issues are mostly related to containment design, which is primarily a function of proper sizing of the facilities and site specific liner design. Geotechnical analyses is the dominant discipline in providing cost efficient, operationally effective and environmentally sound heap leach facility designs. Much has been published on geotechnical aspects of heap leach design, for example Van Zyl, Hutchison and Kiel (1988) and Van Zyl (1987). This paper will emphasize a few specific aspects related to the geotechnical and environmental consideration for heap leach projects. These aspects are: ò site investigation; ò containment design; ò slope stability; ò heap flow dynamics; and ò closure design. Design of a heap leach project must consider not only the operating life but also closure and post-closure considerations. As a matter of standard practice, designing for closure is an extremely important concept. Not only is it important for environmental aspects, but experience also shows that projects designed for closure will be overall more economical for the total life cycle of the project. Closure considerations are also important during project feasibility evaluations to ensure that total life cycle costs are evaluated.
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