Acid-Generating Waste Rocks as Capillary Break Layers in Covers with Capillary Barrier Effects for Mine Site Reclamation

  • Chloé G. LarochelleEmail author
  • Bruno Bussière
  • Thomas Pabst


Tailings and waste rocks can be used to build covers with capillary barrier effects (CCBE) for the purposes of reclaiming acid-generating waste storage facilities while enhancing the value of the materials available on site. The efficiency of non-acid generating tailings, desulfurized tailings, and non-reactive waste rocks as cover materials was demonstrated in previous laboratory and field studies. However, acid-generating waste rocks are usually not considered for cover construction because of the risk of contamination. Nonetheless, using acid-generating waste rocks as the bottom capillary break layer in a CCBE could have economic and logistical benefits for companies, including helping to reduce the volume of waste rock piles and to valorize material that are generally considered to be problematic. In this study, laboratory column tests were performed to evaluate cover scenarios using acid-generating waste rocks from Westwood-Doyon mine (Québec, Canada). These waste rocks were placed under a moisture-retaining layer made of desulfurized tailings. A column test with non-acid-generating waste rocks was also performed for comparison purposes. Columns were submitted to eight wetting/drainage cycles. The performance of these systems was assessed by monitoring the volumetric water content in the different layers and by analyzing the water quality of the leachates. Significant reductions in contamination were observed when covers were added on the reactive waste rocks. These results suggest that it could be possible to valorize acid-generating waste rocks in cover systems.


Covers with capillary barrier effects Kinetic testing Waste rocks Acid mine drainage Reclamation 



The authors thank the URSTM staff for their assistance with laboratory work, and the Westwood-Doyon mine staff for their support and for providing materials.

Funding Information

This study was funded by the NSERC-UQAT Industrial Chair on Mine Site Reclamation and by the Research Institute on Mines and Environment (RIME UQAT-Polytechnique; Additional financial support was from the industrial partners of RIME UQAT-Polytechnique.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chloé G. Larochelle
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bruno Bussière
    • 1
  • Thomas Pabst
    • 2
  1. 1.Research Institute on Mines and Environment (RIME) UQAT-PolytechniqueUniversité du Québec en Abitbi-Témiscamingue (UQAT)Rouyn-NorandaCanada
  2. 2.Department of Civil, Geological, and Mining Engineering, École Polytechnique de MontréalResearch Institute on Mines and Environment (RIME) UQAT-PolytechniqueMontréalCanada

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