Spontaneous combustion hazard assessment of McArthur River Mine waste rock

Operational aspects and case histories of mine waste storage

Basil Beamish

Glencore / B3 Mining Services

The presence of reactive pyrite in waste rock contributes to the hazard of spontaneous combustion in emplacement facilities as it acts as an initiator of self-heating at low ambient temperatures. Organic carbon also present in the waste rocks acts as a fuel at elevated temperatures above 120°C and can lead to thermal runaway resulting in eventual ignition. A new laboratory test method (adiabatic incubation testing) is now available that can identify the presence of reactive pyrite and quantify the self-heating behaviour of the waste rock. McArthur River Mine has a waste rock profile that contains pyritic shale units, which have created spontaneous combustion events in the past. A systematic sampling and testing program is underway to characterise the spontaneous combustion hazard likelihood of the McArthur River Mine waste rocks to provide a sound database for future mine planning of the waste removal and emplacement. This paper presents some initial outcomes of this program and shows the leading practice in spontaneous combustion hazard assessment and management that has been adopted at McArthur River.

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