Evaluation of a composite soil cover to control acid waste rock pile drainage

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 88, No. 995, 1995

Alan V. Bell, ADI Environmental Management Inc., Halifax, Nova Scotia Mike D. Riley*, ADI Environmental Management Inc., Fredericton, New Brunswick, and Ernest K. Yanful, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario

Acid mine drainage (AMD) research under the MEND program has been ongoing since 1988 at the Heath Steele Mines waste rock piles including sulphide material, outside Newcastle, NB. In 1989 approximately 10,000 mt of waste rock was placed on a prepared sand base with an underlying impermeable membrane. The waste rock pile was heavily instrumented for measuring oxygen concentrations and temperatures. In September 1991, a composite soil cover designed for the Heath Steele climatic conditions, using local soils, was placed over the pile, creating a totally enclosed system. Moisture content and oxygen probes were installed within the composite soil cover to monitor changes within the soils over time, while two large-size lysimeters were installed below the cover to monitor the hydraulic conductivity of the cover. The waste rock site has been monitored on a monthly basis since installation of the cover, for performance of both cover and waste rock. The monitoring shows very clearly that the placement of the composite soil cover has had a major impact on the generation of AMD. Major reductions in temperature and oxygen concentrations within the waste rock pile indicate that the cover has significantly inhibited the oxidation reaction that generates the AMD. Performance data have shown that the cover has maintained its integrity under the climatic conditions of the area.