UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Numerical Modeling of a Laboratory-Scale Waste Rock Pile Featuring an Engineered Cover System Raymond, Katherine E.; Seigneur, Nicolas; Su, Danyang; Poaty, Bissé; Plante, Benoît; Bussière, Bruno; Mayer, K. Ulrich


Improved design to reduce contaminant mass loadings from waste rock piles is an increasingly important consideration. In certain cases, an engineered cover system containing a flow control layer (FCL) may be used to mitigate the release of metals out of a pile using capillary barrier effects (CBEs), diverting water away from reactive materials below. In this study, a reactive transport model was calibrated to observational data from a laboratory experiment designed to evaluate a cover system. The results show that the numerical model is capable of capturing flow rates out of multiple drainage ports and matching key effluent concentrations by including the spatial distribution of hydraulic parameters and mineral weathering rates. Simulations were also useful for characterizing the internal flow pathways within the laboratory experiment, showing the effectiveness of the cover in diverting the flow away from the reactive waste rock and identifying secondary CBEs between different rock types. The numerical model proved beneficial in building an improved understanding of the processes controlling the metal release and conceptualizing the system. The model was expanded to investigate the robustness of the cover system as a function of the applied infiltration rate, supporting that water diversion will occur with infiltration rates representative of field conditions.

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