Achieving relinquishment of mining sites is becoming increasingly difficult, with a study by Byrne (2013) estimating that out of a set of 73 mining and metals sites around the world, less than ten per cent had achieved relinquishment over the last 50 years. The median forecast duration of time allocated for water management in the closure plans studied was approximately ten years, while the reality at the actual sites was a median duration of 22 years to date and growing.
One of many challenges in mine closure planning is managing geomorphic stability of stream diversions. The challenge is to be able to demonstrate to regulators and the community that a proposed rehabilitation solution will be stable over the long term.
During the mining operations, local watercourses and surface drainage can be diverted and managed using engineered channels and drainage structures. However, during the post-operations stage, the engineered channel and drainage may require modification to a more natural condition that will facilitate long-term environmental sustainability. Achieving geomorphic stability of a diverted watercourse is difficult, with the majority of stream diversions in Australia failing to meet expected design performance (White et al, 2013). Geomorphic stability is a complex process that is controlled by a combination of factors, including hydraulic flow conditions, geotechnical conditions and vegetation.
This paper proposes that a fully dynamic and deterministic geomorphological model can be used to supplement the traditional empirical approaches to assess long-term geomorphic stability. The paper provides an overview of the geomorphological models and how they have been applied in engineering studies for forecasting future evolution of stream systems. The paper discusses the potential application of these models in the mining industry for forecasting and optimising surface water structures for the operations and post-operations stages of the mining cycle.
Szylkarski, S, Willis-Jones, B, Tjerry, S and Dubinski, I, 2016. Improving the reliability of stream diversion designs in mine closure plans using a morphological tool, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2016 Conference, pp 212–215 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne)