You are on page 1of 10

Revision: 2005/10/04 Author: Jack Caldwell http://technology.infomine.



Pad Description
The basic components of Heap Leach Pads are described by Hutchinson and Ellison (1992) 1 . A recent review of the state of practice of Heap Leach Pad layouts is that by Thiel and Smith (2003) 2 . The Infomine Technology Site, LeachMine includes descriptions, photographs, and technical papers relevant to the components of Heap Leach Pads.

Site Selection
Selection of a site for a Heap Leach Pad may be undertaken using procedures used for tailings impoundment site selection. One of the early, but still relevant and applicable, papers available on site selection is by Robertson et al (1980) 3 . A similar, but expanded approach is described in Caldwell and Robertson (1983) 4 . In essence the basic approach described in these two papers involves the steps: Identify Candidate Sites Compare Alternatives Communicate to Others the Subjective and Objective Criteria Affecting the Choice of Site Substantiate in a Rationale Way the Choice of Site. These steps follow from general decision analysis siting procedures described by Keeney (1981), namely: Identify Candidate Site, including selecting the region of interest, choosing screening criteria, determining candidate areas, and undertaking initial site visits Specify Objectives and Attributes of the Siting Study, including establishing general concerns and relevant interest groups, determining the objectives, and defining measures of effectiveness for each objective.
1 2

Hutchinson, I. P.G., and Ellison, R. D. Mine Waste Management Lewis Publishers. 1992 pp453 to 497 Thiel, R., and Smith, M.E. State of Practice review of Heap Leach Pad Design Issues. See library and technology site LeachMine. 3 Robertson, A. MacG., Shepherd, T. A. and Van Zyl, D. Uranium Mill Tailings Impoundment Site Selection Symposium on Uranium Mill Tailings Management, fort Collins, Colorado, November 24-25, 1980. See also Infomine library. 4 Caldwell, J.A., and Robertson, A. MacG. Selection of Tailings Impoundment Sites The Civil Engineer in South Africa, October, 1983. See also Infomine Library.

Describe Possible Site Impacts, including quantifying impacts, quantifying uncertainty using probability distributions, assessing the judgment of experts, and collecting data and updating estimates. Evaluating Site Impacts Analyzing and Comparing Candidate Sites, including verifying the appropriateness of the decision analysis assumptions.

Modern decision making theory as applied to site selection is described by Robertson and Shaw (1999) 5 . The Multiple Accounts Analysis procedure they describe is a method to presenting, discussing, and exploring differences of opinion between project stakeholders. To account for substantive project impacts a list of accounts and subaccounts is prepared. The list includes impacts of substantive concern to stakeholders. A measure of indicator value of the impact is developed to describe the impact in relevant terms. The accounts are summed and tradeoffs compared to identify and select suitable sites. The Infomine Multiple Accounts Analysis (MAA) short course introduces a methodology, developed for the mining industry, for use in multi-disciplinary and multiple stakeholder decision analyses for selection between multiple alternatives with complex issues and compromises. The technique is illustrated by a case study of tailings site selection and interactive MAA examples are provided to illustrate the process. Multiple Accounts Analysis allows the evaluator to select the most suitable or advantageous alternative from a list of alternatives for mine development and/or reclamation by weighing the benefits and losses of each alternative. The technique was developed to be transparent, defensible and easily communicated to stakeholders. The MAA makes it possible to differentiate between alternatives in ways that are not possible if data, or issues, are viewed and assessed singly and independently. This method will ideally allow the user to consider numerous and variable issues in an alternatives assessment, even issues previously deemed too imprecise for recognition and inclusion in decision making. The short course is organized into the following sessions:
Decision Theory in the Mining Industry Multiple Accounts Methodology Developing a Multiple Accounts Ledger Value-Based Decision Process Interactive Worked Examples

Site Characterization Climate

The interaction of climate and the design and performance of mine waste management facilities is described by Hutchinson and Ellison (1992). 6

Robertson, A. MacG., and Shaw, S.C. A multiple Accounts Analysis for Tailings Site Selection See Infomine library. An Edumine course on the method is also available through Infomine. 6 Hutchinson, I. P.G., and Ellison, R. D. Mine Waste Management Lewis Publishers. 1992 pp 275 to 326 and pp 480.

Specifically with regard to Heap Leach Pads, they note that the following climatic factors and their significance: Short-term, intense rainfall affects the size of ponds, ditches, and containment dikes that need to be designed to avoid erosion and/or overtopping. Long-term weather patterns affect the overall water-balance performance of the pad as regards infiltration, evaporation, and hence the quantity of flow from the pad. Characterization of the climate of a Heap Leach Site includes collecting historic data about site precipitation, evaporation, snow, humidity, temperatures, and wind. Instruments stations may be installed to collect such data during the operation of the Heap Leach Pad. Suppliers of suitable instruments may be found on the Infomine supplier database and through the internet. Competitive bidding is warranted. Historical records of site and local climatic data may be available from nearby airports. The Infomine technology site HydroMine provides links to sources of climatic data in many countries and states of the USA. Other sources of climatic data include internet sites such as the NOAA web site, the address of which is Other than NOAA, there are a lot of web sites where you can find a summary of historical climate data. The most detailed one is Western Regional Climate Center: You can see monthly totals, annuals, and even can plot probability of rainfall. The best thing about this web site is that you could identify the closest weather station nearby your site and search for information from that specific station or purchase it from NOAA. Some U.S.A. states provide historical climate data free on the Internet. For instance, for the state of California, see the web site: This web site is very efficient as it has the complete set of climate data varying from precipitation to solar radiation for most of the weather stations. There is a similar web site for the state of Idaho: Many computer models for analyzing cover performance have routines for the generation of synthetic data records. Example of the use of climatic data in the design and performance evaluation of Heap Leach Pads and similar mine waste disposal facilities is provided in OKane et al (Undated) 7 , Wels et al (2001) 8 , and Christensen (Undated) 9 .

The geology of a Heap Leach Pad should be established. This may be done as part of the geological studies usually undertaken as part of the overall mine investigation, characterization, and development. Geological data about the

OKane, M., Porterfield, D., Endersby, M., and Haug, M.D. The Design and Implementation of the Field Test Plots at the BHP Iron Ore, Mt. Whaleback a Cover System for and Arid Climate. See Infomine LeachMine. 8 Wels, C., OKane, M., Fortin, S., and Christensen, D. (2001) Infiltration Test Plot study for Mine Rock Piles at Questa Mine, New Mexico. 2001 National Meeting of the American Society for surface Mining and Reclamation, Albuquerque, NM, June 3 to 7, 2001. See also Infomine LeachMine. 9 Christensen, D., and O'Kane, M. The Use of Two-Dimensional Soil-Atmosphere Modeling in the Design of Dry Cover Systems for Mine Waste See Infomine LeachMine.

origin, location, and engineering characteristic of site and local soils, rocks, and groundwater should be obtained.

Geotechnical Engineering
Geotechnical engineering as applied Heap Leach Pad design, construction, operation, and closure involves, inter alia, the following: Material Properties. Establishing site, construction material, and ore (as placed on the pad) geotechnical properties such as gradation, strength, compaction response, in situ and residual moisture contents, and hydraulic conductivity. Component Design. Designing site grading, liners, pad drains, slopes, benches, covers, berms, dikes, embankments, ponds, dams, access roads, and geosynthetics. Performance Evaluation. Modeling and quantifying the performance of the Heap Leach Pad including water balance analyses, slope stability evaluations, deformation and settlement studies, and erosion calculations. These geotechnical activities involve standard and conventional geotechnical engineering practice. Consult standard text books for further details, and see specific topics in the Infomine technology sites GeoMine and GeotechMine and the Infomine technology menu.

Surface Water (Hydrology)

The surface water systems at the Heap Leach Pad site should be characterized with respect to the following: Flow patterns including the location and size of local rivers, streams, creeks, swales, ponds, lakes, and other contributing and receiving bodies of water. Flooding potential including flood recurrence intervals, flood plane development, and scour and erosion potentials. Characterization of the surface water features at a Heap Leach Pad includes collation of historic data, field surveys, ongoing site monitoring and modeling and analyses using standard hydrological computer codes. Consult standard text books for further details and see specific topic in the Infomine technology menu.

Groundwater (Hydrology)
The interaction of site groundwater and a Heap Leach Pad is discussed by Hutchinson and Ellison (1992) 10 . In theory there is no interaction of the Heap Leach Pad and groundwater because the liner placed at the base of the HLP precludes passage of ground water up into the HLP and passage of seepage from the HLP to groundwater. In practice, the following considerations give rise to a need to integrate HLP design & operation with groundwater evaluations: Springs and/or artesian groundwater flow at the HLP site may necessitate placement of drains beneath the HLP liner. Holes in the HLP liner may result in the passage of HLP leachate to the groundwater. Water pressures beneath the HLP may affect slope stability. Seepage from the site groundwater may affect the HLP water balance, water management, and the ability to discharge water from the site in accordance with discharge limits such as NPDES permits in the USA.

Hutchinson, I. P.G., and Ellison, R. D. Mine Waste Management Lewis Publishers. 1992 pp 499.

Characterization of groundwater and groundwater analyzes are undertaken in accordance with standard industry procedures and practice. Consult standard text books and Infomine resources. For example HydroMine notes the following:

The Infomine technology site BioMetMine provides information, materials, links, and discussions on this topic relevant to HLPs.

Biological Resources
To evaluate the impact of a HLP on the environment, the biological resources of the HLP area and surroundings must be characterized. Procedures and methods to do this go well beyond the interests of those in the mining industry and use of a specialist consultant is warranted. See also information on the Infomine technology site EnviroMine

Design Design Approach

The basic design requirements for Heap Leach Pads are described by Hutchinson and Ellison (1992) 11 . A recent review of the state of practice of Heap Leach Pad Design is that by Thiel and Smith (2003) 12 . The design of Heap Leach Pads to meet the objectives of sustainable development is discussed by Smith (2004) 13 . Heap Leach Pad design tools available on the Infomine technology site LeachMine include spreadsheets that may be used to calculate the spacing of drainage pipes, the performance of drainage pipes, and the response of the ore to placement in the pad.

Site Grading
The extent and cost of site grading depends on the natural topography of the selected site and the operational requirements of the mine for the HLP. Hutchinson and Ellison (1992) note the following types of HLPs, a classification much influenced by site topography as graded for HLP operation: Reusable Pad Expanding Valley Method Pad. General guidelines for grading an HLP site include: Slope the surface to one or more points where leachate may conveniently be collected. Avoid excessive grade/slope inclinations which may detrimentally affect slope stability. Keep grades as geometrically uniform as possible to facilitate liner placement.

Hutchinson, I. P.G., and Ellison, R. D. Mine Waste Management Lewis Publishers. 1992 pp 453 to 497 Thiel, R., and Smith, M.E. State of Practice review of Heap Leach Pad Design Issues. See library and technology site LeachMine. 13 Smith, M.E. Applying the Seven Questions to Heap Leaching. The Mining Record, Denver, CO June 2004. Also see technology site LeachMine.


Underdrains may be placed beneath the HLP base liner to capture, control, and limit the impact of site springs and/or upward migrating groundwater on the HLP. The type and layout of underdrains is site specific. Underdrain design may be undertaken in accordance with industry standard procedures and practice. See tools and links provided in Infomine technology sites.

Hutchinson and Ellison (1992) 14 provide a comprehensive discussion of liners for HLP. They note that liners may be single liners, or double liners, consist of compacted clay, or geosynthetics, or both, and that liners may include monitoring instruments. They note that factors affecting choice of liner include the type of solution, physical loading, exposure to climate, seepage control efficacy, ability to accommodate ore removal (if relevant), and expected long-term, post-closure performance. Additional factors that may influence liner selection and design include local regulatory requirements, the specifics of the site groundwater, impact on HLP slope stability, and the cost of bringing different liners to the site. Infomine technology sites include considerable relevant information, supplier data, design tools, and links. For example, Thiel and Smith (2003) 15 list the liners types used on recent HLPs.

Drains may be placed on top of the liner to collect leachate and direct the leachate to exit and collection points. Selection of pipes that accommodate the high loadings imposed by HLPs on drains are discussed by A recent review of the state of practice of Heap Leach Pad Design is that by Thiel and Smith (2003) 16 . The spacing of drains may be estimated using tools provided on the Infomine technology site LeachMine.

Surface Water Management Facilities

Surface water management facilities at a HLP may include upgradient drainage ditches, leachate collection and conveyance trenches, sediment ponds, water and/or leachate storage ponds, and discharge channels. Such facilities may be designed in accordance with standard geotechnical and hydrological practice as set out in text and reference books. Surface water management facilities must be designed to operate for both normal flows and for selected extreme design precipitation and runoff events. Selection of the design precipitation and runoff event is affected by relevant laws and regulations, industry standards for the type of mine, the site-specific consequences of failure, and the cost-effectiveness of increasing capacity.

Solution Application Systems

Suppliers of systems to apply solution to the HLP are listed in the Infomine suppliers catalogue. Hutchinson, I. P.G., and Ellison, R. D. Mine Waste Management Lewis Publishers. 1992 pp 469 ff and in particular Table 9.1. 15 Thiel, R., and Smith, M.E. State of Practice review of Heap Leach Pad Design Issues. See library and technology site LeachMine. 16 Thiel, R., and Smith, M.E. State of Practice review of Heap Leach Pad Design Issues. See library and technology site LeachMine.

Ore Placement Systems

Suppliers of systems to apply solution to the HLP are listed in the Infomine suppliers catalogue.

Performance Modeling Stability Static

Industry standard computer programs may be used to evaluate the factor of safety of the slopes of Heap Leach Pads. Key to the use of any of these programs is the geometry of the Heap Leach Pad, the strength of the ore as placed in the pad, and the angle of friction between the liner beneath the pad and the materials placed directly above the liner. Methods for quantifying the static stability of Heap Leach Pads both in the short and long term are described by Breitenbach (2004) 17 . Breitenbach applies standard slope stability analytical methods to Heap Leach Pads and provides information about the strength of ores and liner interfaces. Hutchinson and Ellison (1999) discuss the influence of liners on the static stability of Heap Leach Pads 18 . The Infomine technology site GeotechMine provides links to sellers of slope stability analysis computer programs and also provides a slope stability analysis tool that may be used in appropriate situations.

Stability Seismic
The response of a Heap Leach Pad to an earthquake depends on the magnitude of the event, the properties of the materials in the pad, and the liner interface strength. Potential responses include: Material Liquefaction as discussed and evaluated by Elfin et al (undated). Sliding of the ore over the liners. Mass deformation of the slopes of the pad.

Methods used in the landfill industry to evaluate the seismic response of landfills may be used to quantify the potential for liner sliding and mass deformation see Kavazanjian and Matasovic (xxxx).

Control of erosion during operation of the HLP is generally best effected by appropriate surface contouring as part of the placement of the ore on the HLP, by limiting runon, and by directing runoff to sediment control dams and basins. After closure of the HLP control of erosion is crucial to the long-term performance of the close HLP. Generally control of gully erosion is the primary consideration. This may be achieved by one or more of the following approaches: Vegetation which may be preferable in a moist climate. Breitenbach, A. J. Improvement in Slope Stability Performance of Lined Heap Leach Pads from Design to Operation and Closure. GFR Engineering Solutions, Vol. 22, No. 1, January/February 2004. See also Infomine technology site LeachMine. 18 Hutchinson, I. P.G., and Ellison, R. D. Mine Waste Management Lewis Publishers. 1992 pp 374 ff.

Placement of rocky soil which may be preferable in a dry climate. Contouring to limit runoff lengthsbenches at 20- to 50-ft vertical intervals are commonly used. Disking to create paddocks, i.e., a series of vertical and horizontal surface on the otherwise overall slope sideslope.

Reference the erosion thesis in ARs office. Reference the UMTRA Technical Approach Document on erosion.

During operation of the HLP infiltration to the mass of ore placed on the liner is controlled by the properties of the upper surface of the ore, site precipitation and evaporation patterns, and the application rates of solution water. After closure of the HLP the infiltration is controlled by the closure cover that may be placed as part of the closure works. Standard procedures for estimating infiltration may be used for both the operation and post-closure condition analyses. There is a considerable body of data and many technical papers on quantifying infiltration on mine waste facilities in the InfoMine technology sections and systems. In addition, the procedures and practices developed by the landfill industry for infiltration control and cover construction are readily available and applicable to HLP covers and infiltration control.

Water Balance
Modeling the water balance of a HLP may be undertaken to account for the need for make up water, for water control and management, and to plan and implement waste water discharges. Approaches that may be used vary from simple had mass balance calculations to excel spread sheets of the most complex. Each HLP water balance simulation is site-specific, but common to all is the inflow, change of storage, outflow equation. Inflow is controlled by precipitation, evaporation, runoff, solution application rates, and any other sources of water applied to or falling on the HLP. Change of storage may occur as the ore drains from as placed moisture content to residual moisture content. Generally the sum of inflow and positive change of storage is the outflow.

Acid Generation
There is an extensive body of information on this topic on Infomine and elsewhere. No more need be said here other than please consult such sources for information relevant to your situation as it is affected by local geology, rocks, ore, climate, and regulatory requirements.

The HLP infrastructure may be constructed by mine staff of by earthmoving contractors. Standard construction procedures and practices are employed, and the readers are directed to industry sources.

Operation of the HLP is done in accordance with industry-, company-, and sitespecific procedures. Generally this involves compliance with formal and/or informal Standard Operating Procedures, Health and Safety Plans, Emergency Response Plans, permits, and relevant and applicable laws and regulations.

While written specifically for tailings impoundments and water management facilities, the Mining Association of Canadas Operation, Maintenance and Surveillance Manual for Tailings and Water Management Facilities 19 provides valuable guidance and checklists that may be adapted and adopted for operation of a HLP and its associate surface water management facilities. The Mining Association of Canadas Guide to the Management of Tailings Facilities 20 contains checklists for the operation of a tailings impoundment; the checklists may also be relevant to or readily updated to be relevant to sitespecific HLPs. The Emergency Response Plan 21 & 22 should document at least the following: Contacts and responsible parties and organizations in the event of an emergency. Roles and responsibilities of parties involved in emergency response. Procedure for responding to emergency-inducing precipitation, flooding, earthquakes, fire, civic disturbance, terrorists, slope failures, component failure, etc.

A HLP should be closed so that it becomes a new long-term geomorphic entity in the surrounding environment. To the extent possible, the HLP should be closed so that it is an essentially self-sustaining entity that requires the least conceivable post-closure care and/or maintenance. Achieving this objective may involve, amongst other things: Regrading to enhance surface water control, runoff, and erosion control. Constructing a cover to limit infiltration, air entry, and erosion. Replacing and/or upgrading surrounding surface water management facilities to control upgrading runoff, direct HLP seepage, manage HLP runoff, and generally provide topographic expressions that replicate natural geomorphic features and forms. Constructing, upgrading, and planning for the long-term management of seepage water treatment plants that may be needed to bring leachate water to a quality that complies with site water discharge standards.

Post-Closure Maintenance
Post-closure maintenance should be undertaken in accordance with a PostClosure Maintenance Plan that should incorporate a Post-Closure Emergency Response Plan 23 & 24 . See advert and link to obtain a free printout on Infomine. A free download is available through the Infomine technology site TailingsMine. This document also contains information that may be applicable to the design, construction, and closure of Heap Leach Pads. 21 See the United Nations Environmental Program Technical Report No 42 Apell for Mining; Guidance for the Mining Industry in Raising Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level A free copy of this document may be downloaded via the Infomine technology site TailingsMine. 22 See also the Mining Association of Canada Developing an Operation, Maintenance and Surveillance Manual for Tailing and Water Management Facilities available through Infomine. 23 See the United Nations Environmental Program Technical Report No 42 Apell for Mining; Guidance for the Mining Industry in Raising Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level A free copy of this document may be downloaded via the Infomine technology site TailingsMine. 24 See also the Mining Association of Canada Developing an Operation, Maintenance and Surveillance Manual for Tailing and Water Management Facilities available through Infomine.
20 19

Post-closure maintenance should include the following: Vegetation irrigation, fertilizing, and mowing. Revegetation to augment dead, burnt, or eaten vegetation. Control and repair of erosion damage resulting from runoff. Regrading to address slope creep, mass movement induced by earthquakes and high precipitation events, or slope instability. Access road maintenance include regarding, dust control, etc. Maintenance of surface water management facilities and components include vegetation removal, sediment cleanup, liner repair, replacement of damaged erosion control riprap, etc. Monitoring of groundwater to observe reducing or developing groundwater pollution resulting from possible liner deterioration and/or failure.