Methodology for Cover Stabilization and Installation of Drainage Pipes in a Heap Leach Cover

Additonal authors: Silva, M.. 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

Olivares, G.

In a leach pile, the drainage layer or commonly known as the cover layer has been a matter of discussion due to the multiple phenomena or events that occur within it which impacts negatively the leaching process. All these events are directly related to the loss of draining capacity and irregular flow net due to an excessive compaction and entrapment of fines reducing the flow velocity which in turn cause more fines to get trapped. Over time the problem will continue to worsen rapidly and accelerating continuously like a geometric progression. When the cover layer gets to a certain level of deterioration, the only alternative to continue operating safely is to replace the entire cover material, a huge cost for any mining operation. TESRA has developed a solution to counteract the accelerated advance of the deterioration of the drainage layer. The solution consists of using large agricultural tractors coupled to a proprietary design of a heavy- duty subsoiler-ripper for deep tillage for loosening and breaking up the ground at various depth and with different legs spacing from 0.4 m or above. Also, if the ground still requires additional breaking, TESRA proposes the use of a rototiller that breaks any lumps to homogenize the ground to a certain particle size. With the subsoiler-ripper/rototiller combination equipment a layer of 0.5 m deep is properly treated to match closely the original conditions of the ground thus regaining the flow net as close as to the original seepage condition. Once the ripping is completed the subsoiler-ripper tool is replaced with another that is similar to a plow and thus continue with the installation of drainage pipes. The tool digs a Y-type profile trench allowing the pipe to sit precisely at the bottom of the trench, contributing additional lateral and lower support. This tool controls the installation depth of the drainage pipe at different inclination grades and also eliminating any irregularities that may block the flow of the leaching solution. Sometimes the obstructions block completely the flow of the solution. The main result of this methodology is the reduction of groundwater levels and at least 2% less humidity in the leaching gravel due to an increase in the draining capacity of cover. The methodology developed by TESRA applied during a couple of cycles of a dynamic leach pile has proven to be a real alternative to remedy and recuperate the cover close to its original conditions. The methodology requires only one large tractor and two accessories operated in different stages while replacing the more traditional and less efficient machinery such as the Bulldozer, Motor-grader, and backhoes.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019