Cover system to mitigate ARD in an arid climate - setup of field test plots at BHP Iron Ore's Mt. Whaleback operation (Technical Paper)

O’Kane, M. ; Endersby, M. ; Porterfield, O.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
BHP Iron Ore initiated research programs in January 1995 to develop long-term plans for decommissioning waste rock material at its Mt. Whaleback operation. More than 2 Gt (2.2 billion st) of waste rock were deposited during the past 30 years. Ultimately, a total of 4 Gt (4.4 billion st) will be deposited in waste rock dumps constructed near the open pit. The Mt. Whaleback operation is located in a semiarid climate adjacent to Newman, Western Australia. The primary research program includes the development of technology for the long-term performance of the waste rock dumps with respect to vegetation, slope stability, surface runoff, erosion and water infiltration. This paper focuses on the design and implementation of a cover system to prevent water infiltration to the underlying waste rock. Data obtained from a laboratory program and from soil-atmosphere modeling was used to design horizontal field test plots. The construction of the horizontal surface field test plots is discussed together with the field instruments installed to monitor performance. The cover system is designed to maximize infiltration during wet periods for subsequent evapotranspiration while minimizing surface runoff. The result is a near-zero net infiltration to the underlying waste material. An important feature of the design is the use of run-of-mine waste material as the cover material. Monitoring is in progress and will continue for at least two annual wet/dry cycles. The optimum cover system should minimize the net infiltration of water to the underlying waste rock while maintaining physical and ecological integrity for long-term performance.
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