Authors: Martin, V; Aubertin, M; Benzaazoua, M; Zhan, G


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Martin, V, Aubertin, M, Benzaazoua, M & Zhan, G 2010, 'Investigation of near-surface exchange processes in reactive paste tailings', in R Jewell & AB Fourie (eds), Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Seminar on Paste and Thickened Tailings, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 265-278,

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The use of paste tailings is considered as a potentially advantageous alternative to conventional slurry tailings disposal, especially in areas where water resources are scarce. In order to assess the response of a paste tailings storage facility, one needs to analyse the near-surface moisture fluxes in the exposed tailings due to evaporation and drainage. In the case of sulphide bearing materials with an acid mine drainage (AMD) generating potential, it is important to evaluate the impact of desaturation that may lead to tailings weathering, i.e. oxidation. A key factor influencing production of AMD is the distribution of the pore water within the tailings. This paper presents sample results from laboratory testing and numerical simulations that are being conducted to evaluate pore water movements in surface paste tailings. The study focuses primarily on columns tests made with paste tailings from Barrick Gold’s Bulyanhulu Mine (Tanzania, Africa). These tests have been used to assess the evolution of paste tailings behaviour and their reactivity at the laboratory scale, with the help of numerical simulations. The oxidation rate is also investigated for different situations pertaining to the column tests results. The numerical simulations presented are a one-dimensional simplification of the tailings storage facility of Bulyanhulu Mine, and evaluate the impact of evaporation on the water balance of paste tailings deposited on surface. The main observations indicate that the oxidation of exposed reactive tailings is influenced by their degree of saturation and the evaporation plays an important role in the water balance of paste tailings exposed to near surface conditions.

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