Creating Wetlands on Acid Generating Tailings - Maintenance Free Reclamation?

Eger, Paul ; Melchert, Glenn ; Antonson, Dave ; Wagner, Jon ; Folman, John
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 10
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
Current approaches to reclaiming acid generating tailings include permanent water cover or encapsulation with various synthetic liners and/or clay. Although these methods can be effective, some ongoing maintenance will be required in perpetuity to ensure that water levels are adequately maintained or that the integrity of any capping system is protected. The successful creation of wetlands in tailings basins offers the possibility of creating a stable environment for the tailings with minimal maintenance. Acid-generating tailings from a massive zinc sulfide deposit in Winston Lake, Ontario, were placed in small cylindrical tanks to examine the feasibility and effectiveness of creating wetlands and mitigating acid and metal release. Two uncovered controls were established in addition to the five treatments, which were done in duplicate. Each wetland tank was 117 cm in diameter and contained 6 1 cm of tailings. Treatments included 61 cm cover of wetland soil, 61 cm of glacial till, 61 cm of tailings, and two tanks with 71 cm of water. One of the water covers included the aquatic macrophytes: Elodea canadensis, Potamegeton sp., and Ceratophyllum demersum. Cattails (Typha latifolia) were planted in the plots with substrate cover, and the initial water level was set at ten centimeters. The pH within the tailings in the treated tanks generally ranged between 6.0 and 6.5 and zinc concentration ranged from 0.02 to 0.1 mg/L. The drainage from the controls had an average pH of 3.3, and 7,700 mg/L of zinc.
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