Lithogeochemical Methods for Acid Rock Drainage Studies and Prediction

Exploration & Mining Geology, Vol. 6, No. 4, 1997
The acid rock drainage (ARD) buffering capacity of mine waste is governed by its bulk chemical composition and its mineral assemblage. Conventional acid base accounting (ABA) tests can be used to predict short-term buffering, but should be used with caution to model or predict the long-term ARD buffering capacity of mine waste. ABA data for mine waste samples from four different deposit types: anorthosite-hosted magmatic sulfide nickel, dunite-hosted magmatic sulfide nickel, porphyry copper-gold, and volcanic-hosted high sulfidation epithermal silver, were compared with whole-rock geochemical and petrographic data obtained from the same samples. Our objective was to devise and test a method of predicting ARD buffering capacity based on bulk chemistry and modal mineralogy. In other words, we developed a quantitative theoretical method for calculating neutralizing potential, relying on easily obtainable and relatively inexpensive whole-rock and sulfur XRF analyses, which could substitute for conventional ABA procedures in situations where these procedures are either too costly or too time consuming. For each deposit type, models were devised that reasonably approximate the net neutralization potential estimated by the ABA data obtained from laboratory tests. Once an appropriate model has been developed and tested, portable X-ray fluorescence equipment, already used for grade control at many mine sites, could provide the wholerock and sulfur analyses required to estimate the ARD potential of the waste material. Although this approach is not intended as a substitute for the legally mandated ABA test procedure, it could facilitate the timely and cost-effective management and mitigation of ARD at a mine site.
Keywords: Acid rock drainage, ARD, Mine waste, Acid base accounting, ABA
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