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Initial Prediction of the Decant Rate and Sulfate Concentration From Rehabilitated Open Cast Coal Mines in South Africa

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  • A number of rehabilitated open cast coalmines in SA are already decanting. The paper focuses on the situation at one of these mines where the following information exist: monthly decant rates and rainfall; sulfate concentrations of the decanting water; water level measurements inside the mine prior to decanting; ABA analyses; information about the rehabilitation (drainage slope, vegetation, soil used). A 2D-model was constructed for the mine and calibrated against six years of flow data. About 85 per cent of the decant outflow rate comes from direct recharge on top of the rehabilitated mine while the other 15 per cent is derived from lateral groundwater inflows. The estimated recharge value was 17 per cent of the rainfall. Measured sulfate values showed that the sulfate generation rate for the mine was in the order of 7 kg/ha/d. Conclusions from the study are: • most of the water decanting from rehabilitated open cast coal mines is derived from recharge via rainfall; • given a specific sulfate generation rate, then: the lower the recharge the less the decant rate but the higher the sulfate concentration of the decanting water and vice versa; • future prediction of the decant rate must be stochastic according to expected percentile monthly rainfall values; and • as a first assessment of the predicted sulfate concentration of decant water from rehabilitated open case mines, the 7 kg/ha/d sulfate generation rate can be used.

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