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A comparison of measured and predicted diffusion coefficients applied to sand and silt sized acid mine drainage materials

Dettrick, D., Costelloe, J., Arora, M., Yuen, S.
Journal of environmental management 2019 v.231 pp. 1106-1116
acid mine drainage, acidification, acidity, agricultural soils, diffusivity, heavy metals, mining, models, oxidation, oxygen, pollution, porosity, safety factor, sand, silt, soil air, soil structure, surface water
Determining the rate at which Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) sulfide oxidation occurs in mining waste products is a central requirement for safe and sustainable long term design of storages, including tails storage facilities, ore stockpiles and waste rock dumps. Inappropriate design can result in AMD acidification, mobilisation of heavy metals and pollution of ground and surface waters. The use of soil gas (oxygen) transport modelling to model AMD based sulfide oxidation and potential acidity loads is widespread, but diffusion coefficients used for modelling are based on existing diffusion coefficient models derived for natural and agricultural soils. Mining wastes are often well sorted due to mineral processing, and differences in soil structure and porosity can impact on diffusion coefficient behaviour compared to natural soils. This study compares a variety of approaches to estimate the diffusion coefficient and compare these results to measured values for comparison and analysis. A diffusion column apparatus is used to compare diffusion coefficient models from the literature with test results from the laboratory in several mining derived AMD materials. The results of the comparison indicate that laboratory testing of diffusion provides more accurate estimation of soil gas diffusion coefficients in mine materials. The use of diffusion coefficient safety factor approaches are explored as possible alternatives, if measurement of mine material matrix soil gas diffusion coefficient is not possible.