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Evaluation of a Single-Layer Desulfurised Tailings Cover

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  • A desulfurised tailings cover was installed at the Detour Lake Mine in Ontario, Canada, to reduce oxygen penetration into the underlying sulfidic tailings. The cover ranges from one to 1.5 m in thickness and was intended to maintain high water saturation to reduce oxygen diffusion and consume oxygen by oxidation of the residual sulfide minerals. The tailings impoundment was instrumented to measure climatic parameters, water levels and water content profiles within the tailings and single-layer cover. One year of monitoring data was collected. Additional tailings samples were obtained for geotechnical and geochemical characterisation. The average grain size of the cover material was found to be coarser than the underlying tailings. Monitoring also indicated that air entry values of the cover material were lower than the tailings. Numerical modelling was conducted on the cover to predict water content profiles under varying climate conditions together with the depth of oxygen penetration and diffusive oxygen fluxes. Estimates of the diffusion coefficient and kinetic oxidation rates from field data compared well with values obtained by laboratory measurements. Numerical simulations indicate water saturations of less than 85 per cent can be expected under varying climate conditions. Predicted oxygen flux rates through the desulfurised cover over tailings with high acid potential indicate low flux rates reaching these tailings due to either consumption of oxygen by residual sulfur within the cover or saturation of the underlying tailings.

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