Geochemical Performance of Mine Rock beneath an Elemental Sulfur Stockpile and Implications for Water Quality Management Following Removal of the Stockpile
Additonal authors: Day, S.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:
Proceedings, Vol. Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019, 2019
Elemental sulfur was stockpiled at the Mount Polley Mine for use as a source of sulfuric acid as part of research into leaching copper from oxide ores, but the project did not proceed beyond an initial pilot- scale evaluation. Since placement, the sulfur has oxidized and some sulfuric acid leached into the underlying rock. The reaction of the acid with these underlying materials has been studied as part of an evaluation of the effects of leachate from the pile. The rock underneath the sulfur pile is composed dominantly of primary and secondary alumino-silicates with less than 1% carbonate (calcite) and iron sulfide (pyrite). In its unaltered condition, the rock is classified as non-acid generating. Conceptually, it was expected the sulfuric acid would be neutralized by the rock to varying degrees resulting in a series of pH-controlled weathering fronts progressing from leached near the contact with the sulfur pile (pH <3), to active neutralization by silicates (pH 4–5), to active neutralization by carbonates (pH >7). The rocks underneath the pile were sampled to determine the extent to which the rocks had reacted and their long-term stability after removal of the acid source.
When rock is blasted and excavated to facilitate mining ore, it is typically placed and stored on the surface in piles. The resulting drainage may have a neutral to basic pH (i.e., non-acidic drainage) or a low pH (i.e., acid rock drainage, ARD) depending on the mineralogy of the rock being stored in the piles. Acid- base accounting (ABA) can be used to characterise the two types of rock: potentially acidic drainage generating (PAG) and not potentially acidic drainage generating (NAG) (Price, 2009). According to Price (2009), NAG is defined as having an excess of neutralization potential (NP) in the rock in the form of calcium carbonate-like minerals when compared to acid potential (AP), i.e., a Neutralization Potential Ratio (NP/AP
= NPR) greater than 2.0, whereas PAG is classified as having an excess of AP (i.e., an NPR less than 1.0). This is a conservative estimate and may be slightly modified depending on the mineralogy at specific mine sites. Rock with an NPR of 1–2 is also capable of generating acid (Price, 2009) and, depending on the mineralogy, may also be classified as PAG.
Drainage from PAG material can generate acid immediately, or many years after it has been exposed to surface conditions. Disposal techniques depend on the category (i.e., NAG or PAG) and reactivity of the rock stored in the piles.
Copper 2019, COM2019