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Materials Characterization

OKC provides a variety of services related to geotechnical and geochemical characterization of geologic materials. Material characterization is the building block for developing a defensible closure plan for a mine waste storage facility. Failure of a closure plan is very often the result of poor material characterization. Different levels of material characterization can be conducted, usually dependent on the complexity and stage of the project. With the completion of each successive level, the amount of risk or uncertainty in the long-term performance of a waste storage facility closure design should be reduced.

Excavation into a reactive waste rock pile to facilitate sampling and quantification of internal structure.

Material characterization with respect to mine closure requires an understanding of local natural landforms as well as mining features such as open pits, waste rock piles, and tailings storage facilities. The availability of local potential cover materials and reactivity of waste materials have a large influence on the design of mine waste cover systems. Historically, characterization of reactive waste materials was considered more critical than characterizing inert waste materials. However, inert materials, in particular those suitable for use as growth media and that will be placed near the surface of a final landform, must also be adequately characterized to enhance the probability of long-term geomorphic stability.

Conceptual, analytical, and/or numerical modelling will be required at some point during the design of a closure plan for a mine waste storage facility. Material properties are required for any modelling; hence, a certain level of material characterization is required on all projects. We need to take advantage of ‘common sense’, but, most likely, stakeholders will require an appropriate level of material characterization. In addition, conducting an appropriate material characterization program is paramount for developing a ‘link’ between impacts to the receiving environment and cover system performance such that site-specific cover performance criteria can be developed.

Measurement of field permeability using three different methods.