Groundwater-level recovery following closure of open-pit mines

Caglar Bozan, Ilka Wallis, Peter G. Cook, Shawan Dogramaci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Open-pit mining has increased substantially over the past two decades. Many currently operating open-pit mines are facing the end of mine-life over the next few decades and, increasingly, focus is shifting towards mine-closure planning that provides evidence on available closure options under the given geological, hydro(geo)logical and climatic conditions. This study uses synthetic groundwater modelling to build basic process understanding of closure options and how these will determine the formation of pit lakes. This governs the long-term pit lake water quality and how postmining landscapes may be utilised. Simulations show that the recovery time of postmining groundwater levels increases with decreasing aquifer transmissivity. Final postmining water tables are predominantly controlled by the implemented mine closure options and climatic conditions. The most important decision is, thereby, whether to backfill the pit to above the water table or allow a pit lake to develop. Under moderately transmissive aquifer settings, backfilling of pits leads to rapidly rising groundwater levels within the first decade after mining, with water-table recoveries of above 70%. If mine voids remain unfilled, evaporation from the pit lake surface becomes a governing factor in determining whether the unfilled mine pit becomes a terminal sink for groundwater. Lake levels may remain subdued by several 10s of metres in arid to semiarid climates. If surplus surface water can be diverted into open pits, rapid filling can accelerate groundwater recovery of open pits in regions of low permeability. This is a less successful management option in transmissive aquifers.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalHydrogeology Journal
Early online date4 Jul 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jul 2022

Keywords

  • Groundwater management
  • Groundwater recovery
  • Mine closure
  • Numerical modeling
  • Pit lakes

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