Discrete-Zone Mixing of Net-Acid-Neutralizing and Net-Acid- Generating Rock: Avoiding the Argument over Appropriate Ratios

Morin, Kevin A. ; Hutt, Nora M.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 7
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
There is currently some pessimism over mixing of net-acid-neutralizing (NAN) and net-acid-generating (NAG) rock to obtain indefinite near-neutral seepage from mined-rock piles. This is due in large part to the lack of well- documented, successful cases of blending and layering, and to the knowledge of unsuccessful attempts. Past work often defined a potentially successful mix in terms of the ratio of net-acid-neutralizing rock to net-acid-generating rock. For example, one case study indicated the bulk pile-wide ratio was approximately 3: 1. Since this exceeded a common ratio used in acid-base accounting, no acidic drainage was predicted. However, acidic drainage appeared within two years. A large part of the ambiguity in mixing arises from attempts to predict success based on a ratio. This paper looks in detail at simple discrete-zone mixing, where at least one truckload of NAG rock is placed in a particular location with no further rehandling or dozing. The lack of acidic drainage in this scenario is dependent on the intervening distance between the discrete NAG zones, along flowpaths occupied by NAN rock. Calculations show that the bulk mixing ratio of a mined-rock pile is not an accurate indication of whether near-neutral drainage can be maintained. For example, a pile with a bulk ratio around 300: 1 could still release some acidic drainage. Calculations also show that the minimum separation distance of the NAG zones (L) can be so great, even with typical NAG and NAN rock, that the mixed pile could safely contain only a few percent of NAG rock, which would not be sufficient for many minesites with NAG rock. The comparison to a more elaborate, computer-based statistical model shows that the simple discrete-zone approach will provide a reliable yes-no indication of whether any acidic drainage will leave a pile. However, predictions of whether combined downstream drainages will be acidic depend on numerous site-specific physical and geochemical factors within and below a pile that cannot be modelled in a general way, like the number of flowpaths and the nature of their intersections.
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