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Waste dump erosional landform stability – a critical issue for mountain mining

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Martín-Moreno, Cristina and Duque, José F. Martín and Ibarra, José M. Nicolau and Muñoz Martín, Alfonso and Zapico, Ignacio (2017) Waste dump erosional landform stability – a critical issue for mountain mining. Earth surface processes and Landforms . ISSN 1096-9837

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Official URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)1096-9837



Abstract

Mining is the largest producer of solid wastes which, when released to land or into waterways, can cause harmful environmental impacts. This is mostly due to fluvial erosion, which is highly increased in mountain areas, due to abrupt slopes. We have analysed this situation at a mountain watershed (192 ha), where steep mined sites and their waste dumps are the main source of sediment in a Natural Park. This problem was tackled by building gabion check dams downstream from the mined sites. We used the DEM of Differences (DoD) method to quantify erosion and sediment yield from three waste dumps (5 ha). Their topography and substrate properties were analysed to understand the erosion problem. The sediment trapped by the check dams was quantified by Electrical Resistivity Tomography. The rainfall characteristics triggering an episode that filled the check dams with sediment in the winter of 2009-2010, were studied to confirm whether it was a case of extreme precipitation conditions. The waste dumps sediment yield (353 ± 95 Mg ha-1 yr-1) suggests severe landform instability. Analysis of topographic and substrate properties confirmed long, steep slopes combined with highly erodible materials. The check dams proved to be inefficient in controlling sediment loads, as they had only functioned for four years of 31 of existence, having trapped 13000 ± 660 m3 of sediment, whereas we estimated that the waste dumps have yielded approximately three times more sediment for the same period. Rainfall analyses showed that neither intense nor extreme conditions (return period of 25-35 years) triggered the mobilization of 37 ± 2 Mg ha-1 in a month. This study highlights the fact that mining operations in similar mountainous settings, with equivalent waste dump construction and reclamation practices, are currently unfeasible. We conclude that landform stability cannot be achieved at this site without landform changes.


Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Landform stability, Mining erosion, Check dams, Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT), DEM of Difference (DoD)
Subjects:Sciences > Geology > Geodynamics
ID Code:46303
Deposited On:02 Feb 2018 12:25
Last Modified:02 Feb 2018 12:25

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