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Evaluation of Management Options for Acid Generating Tailings Deposited on an Arid Peruvian Coast

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • We conducted a preliminary assessment of an extensive deposit of historic tailings discharged over a period of 40 years to the shoreline along a Southern Peruvian coastline. The tailings formed an extensive beach approximately 2.4 km long and 300 m wide. The tailings consist principally of pyrite (37 to 59 per cent), hematite (nine to 20 per cent), magnetite (three to 13 per cent) and quartz (11 to 36 per cent). The present operating company was required to evaluate the feasibility of capping the ocean side tailings deposit, however, given the size of the undertaking and the potential to reclaim residual minerals from the tailings, it was prudent to first evaluate whether capping would in fact reduce the impacts to the marine environment. Therefore this preliminary assessment examined: 1. metals contamination in tailings, shoreline porewater and marine sediments; 2. reactivity of tailings and acid generation potential; and 3. the potential for biological effects from metal contamination in the uplands tailings (solid phase) and beach porewater. Based on mineralogy, column leach studies and chemical results, the upland tailings have a high geochemical potential to acidify and release metals, especially copper, nickel and zinc, should they be subject to oxygenated and aqueous conditions. But, the extreme arid climate results in very low potential for precipitation and virtually precludes the transport of acid drainage reaction products from the upland tailings towards ocean. Wind erosion caused by offshore winds is likely a small source of tailing transport to the ocean. Since some potential exists to reprocess the tailings in the future, capping does not seem justified at present.

  • Date created
    2003
  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Type of Item
    Article (Published)
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-mptj-p466
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