Making use of potentially contaminating mine waste in cover design at Endeavor Mine, NSW

Mine waste facility liner and cover systems


Timothy Rohde


SGM environmental Pty Limited

The Mine is an underground zinc (Zn), lead (Pb) and silver (Ag) operation in central New South Wales (NSW). Broadly speaking the Mine has two domains that require rehabilitation, the mine industrial area (MIA) and the tailings storage facility (TSF). The MIA has been used for the handling and processing of ore and contains elevated sulfate, sulfide and metals (Pb, Zn). The TSF receives the by-products of processing, that is, potentially acid forming (PAF) tailings which also contain elevate sulfate, sulfide and metals.

Typically, the rehabilitation of a TSF involves two controls. Firstly, controlling the potential for PAF tailings to form acid rock drainage (ARD) by limiting interaction with oxygen. Secondly, once the tailings are unsaturated, limiting interaction with water (usually as rainfall) to reduce the potential for ARD to be transported to the receiving environment. These two controls are often employed in the form of a cover.

In semi-arid environments there are many Australian examples of covers that have been built to limit interactions of mine by-products with oxygen and water. Typically, the covers contain one or more layers and are built from soil and rock which may include run-of-mine rock. The Mine however has limited supplies of stockpiled soil; and run-of-mine rock is not generated in large volumes because it is used as backfill underground.

A cover design strategy was developed to cater for these limiting factors. The strategy identified soil, ore and rock accretion (the accretion) below the MIA could be a potential source of borrow material for the cover. The purpose of this paper is to describe the cover design process, the method and results of large (2m tall) column trials that were used as a cost-effective way to trial three cover options and finally, the paper describes the water balance that was developed from the column trial results and subsequent modelling using SVFlux.

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