Evaluating the effective oxygen diffusion coefficient in blends of till and green liquor dregs (GLD) used as sealing layer in mine waste covers
Sammanfattning: Dry covers can be used to limit the generation of acid mine drainage from sulphidic mine waste exposed to air and water. For the covers to act efficiently a high degree of saturation should be maintained in the cover, as the diffusion of oxygen is substantially reduced in water compared to that in air. Historically, dry covers made solely from till have been applied with varying degrees of success. To improve the performance of dry covers, a multi-layer approach can be applied incorporating a sealing layer aimed at effectively preventing oxygen ingress and an overlying protective layer. Blends of till and green liquor dregs (GLD) are thought to have advantageous properties regarding the water retention capacity and hydraulic conductivity. Subsequently, the blends should have a good ability to remain highly saturated during dry periods and be able to maintain their function as oxygen diffusion barriers over time. In this study the effective oxygen diffusion coefficient (De) in blends of till and GLD was evaluated by laboratory measurements. The oxygen diffusion coefficient of till-GLD blends was evaluated through 81 diffusion tests performed at different degrees of water saturation. The blends differed in added amounts of GLD and different types of GLD. These variables were studied as they affect the blends grain size, porosity, tortuosity, and degree of saturation, which in turn affect the De. The tests were performed in two-chamber diffusion cells and interpreted using the software Vadose/W (Geoslope, 2016) to determine the De. The results provide an initial evaluation of the variation of De that can be expected for till-GLD blends. The De was found to vary greatly for the blends (10-6 > De > 10-11 m2 s-1) depending on the degree of saturation. Even though the GLD contain substantial amounts of water, a high water content of the till was still required to reach a low De. A predictive model for estimating the De based on basic geotechnical soil properties was compared to the De from the interpreted diffusion tests. The model could generally predict the De to within an acceptable range (± one order of magnitude). Additionally, diffusion tests performed on materials dried in successive steps showed how the De changed over time when exposed to drying. A sharp increase in the De was found for the blends, pure GLD and pure till when exposed to drying. Thus, no clear improvement was found for the GLD-till blends compared to the pure till. These results indicate that the till-GLD layers should not be exposed to drying as loss of cover efficiency may occur. This can have implications for the use of till-GLD blends as sealing layers in terms of the design of the protective cover and the placement of covers. To validate these results, tests on larger material quantities should be performed, preferably in field conditions, and comparison to field measurements would be of high interest.
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