Prediction of the long-term performance of green liquor dregs as a sealing layer to prevent the formation of acid mine drainage
One of the mining industry's main concerns is the management of waste rock and tailings generated by sulfide ore extraction. Upon exposure of atmospheric oxygen, iron sulfides oxidize generating acidity. Infiltrating water form a metal-rich acidic leachate called acid mine drainage (AMD), that can cause serious environmental problems. Green liquor dregs (GLD) is a material that resists the passage of oxygen and water and could thus be used to seal mine wastes, preventing their oxidation and AMD formation. To enable its use in dry mine waste covers, the long-term efficiency of such GLD sealing layers must be evaluated. In this study, fresh GLD and GLD aged for 3 to 13 years was collected from two sites and analysed to determine how aging affects its chemical and physical properties. Aged and fresh GLD were very similar with respect to all the properties important in a sealing layer. In particular, there was no evidence of calcite dissolution in aged GLD samples. Aged GLD also exhibited high water saturation (>91%) and chemical stability, both of which are important for effective long-term sealing. The shear strength of GLD deployed in the field increased over time but not sufficiently to ensure the long-term physical integrity of a pure GLD sealing layer. The development of hybrid materials with improved shear strength will therefore be necessary.