Closure of Copper Heap Leach Facilities in Semi-Arid and Arid Climates: Challenges for Strategic Management of Acid Drainage
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Jan 1, 2000
The advent of solvent extraction-electrowinning (SX-EW) technology for recovery of copper from low grade oxide ores has extended the operational lives of many historic mines in the western United States, and made many other orebodies economically viable worldwide. Many of these operations are mature and face closure within the next decade, depending on market conditions. Closure of a large copper heap leach operation has not been undertaken, and differs in some important chemical respects from closure of gold leach pads. Challenges for closure include prediction of solution chemistry and draindown characteristics, determining the benefit of cover placement in semi-arid climates and evaluation of solution management strategies once the economics of copper recovery are no longer favorable. This paper discusses issues pertinent to copper heap closure in semi-arid and arid climates, and strategies for their management.