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Characterising the Spontaneous Combustion Propensity of Waste Rock


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Author B Beamish and J Theiler


The presence of reactive metal sulfide minerals in waste rock contributes to the hazard of spontaneous combustion in dumps, as these minerals react with air and water entering the dump at ambient temperatures to form various mineral products and significant heat. This reaction series can also be an initiator of self-heating of carbonaceous material present in the waste rocks if sufficiently high temperatures are reached. Characterisation of these reactive minerals has primarily been to assess the risk of acid mine drainage, which is not necessarily an indicator of spontaneous combustion risk. No systematic testing procedure has been adopted by industry to assess the spontaneous combustion propensity of the waste rock. As a consequence, the principal management strategy for spontaneous combustion has been a reactive approach of dealing with events as they arise.

Recent advances in adiabatic oven-testing have enabled more definitive assessment of the spontaneous combustion propensity of coals, including the quantification of the accelerating influence of reactive pyrite (Beamish and Beamish, 2011, 2012; Beamish, Lin and Beamish, 2012). This same test procedure has been used to assess the self-heating performance of metal concentrates and is therefore amenable to assessing the metal sulfide oxidation process from low ambient temperatures. The data obtained from such testing can be used to quantify the more prone waste rock sequences of a mineral deposit in advance of mining. This enables appropriate management planning for emplacement and long-term storage of waste rock in dumps.


Beamish, B and Theiler, J, 2016.
Characterising the spontaneous combustion propensity of waste rock, in
Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2016 Conference , pp 93–96 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).