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Waste Rock and Tailings Mixtures as a Possible Seal for Potentially Acid Forming Waste Rock

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  • Potentially acid forming (PAF) waste rock contained in dumps formed as a result of open cut mining of metalliferous orebodies are conventionally sealed or covered using a near-saturated, low permeability compacted clay layer, protected with a mulch layer and/or vegetated growth medium. The purpose of the compacted clay layer is to limit oxygen diffusion and the infiltration of rainfall into the dump. Where the aerial extent of the PAF waste rock dump is large, or where suitable clayey material is in short supply, it may be difficult to source sufficient suitable clayey material to form the cover. The paper describes a laboratory-based investigation of combining inert waste rock and tailings to form an alternative seal or cover material. The inert waste rock was sourced from the trafficked surface of a non-acid forming (NAF) waste rock dump, with a maximum particle size of about 100 mm. This was combined with NAF thickener underflow tailings slurry in various mass ratios, and the resulting mixtures tested for their particle size distribution, compaction characteristics, soil water characteristics (relationship between suction and volumetric moisture content), and saturated hydraulic conductivity. The mixtures tested ranged in consistency from those dry enough to be compactable, to those with the consistency of wet concrete that lend themselves to placement without the need for compaction. The laboratory test results showed that the suitability of the mixtures as seal or cover materials is very dependent on the particle size distribution of the mixture, with well-graded mixtures having substantial fines performing best.

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