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Development of an Empirical Geochemical Model (OkARD) to Predict Acid Rock Drainage Risks From Mine Derived Sediments, Ok Tedi Copper and Gold Mine, Papua New Guinea

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  • The Ok Tedi copper and gold mine is owned and operated by Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML) and is located in the Star Mountains of the Western Province of Papua New Guinea. Waste materials (both sulfidic and carbonate materials) from mining operations, comprising 55 Mt of waste rock and 31 Mt of tailings per annum, are discharged into the headwaters of mine area creeks where erosion and sediment transport carries significant proportions of the total waste into the Ok Tedi and Fly River systems. The tailings are potentially acid forming (PAF) while the waste rock has been strongly acid consuming with an excess of acid neutralising capacity (ANC) due to the high proportion of limestone waste. Tailings and waste rock are eroded into the river system and transported to the lower Ok Tedi and floodplains where deposition takes place. Because of concern due to vegetation die back, a dredging operation commenced in March 1998 to remove the sand fraction from the main river channel. OTML identified a potential future ARD risk from the stockpiled sands due to reduce limestone production at the mine and sulfide/carbonate mineral segregation in the river system and in the dredge sand stockpiles. This paper describes the structure and framework of an empirical model developed to assist OTML in planning ongoing mining operations to control ARD. Modelling identified the need to provide additional mined limestone to prevent future ARD generation from material deposited in the mine area creeks. With the additional limestone, the ARD risk in waste rock storage areas and in the Ok Tedi and Fly River sediments is predicted to remain low due to the combined effects of high ANC, high alkalinity of natural waters and high moisture contents (mostly fully water saturated). However, monitoring and modelling indicate that the ARD risk from the stockpiled sands will increase substantially during the remaining years of the operation. OTML have initiated programs to identify and evaluate options to mitigate this risk.

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