Mining Uses for Geomembranes

In addition to being universally popular for road construction and pond lining projects alike, geomembranes are essential for the mining industry. Other industries only have a handful of uses for these liners, but mining facilities often have half a dozen or more uses per location. While different purposes may call for slightly different thicknesses or other characteristics, most applications can be solved with a similar kind of material. Find out how to adapt geomembranes to every need in the mining industry for more reliable production and a healthier profit margin.

Bottom Liners for Full Containment

The foundation of any modern mining treatment plant is the bottom liner. Installed below any equipment or ponds designed for processing holding mining materials and waste, this is the primary containment method for preventing spills and losses of valuable products. Using a continuous layer of geomembrane under an entire facility may sound like a major challenge, but it’s easier than you think with the right materials. Mining tailing ponds and heap leaching pads definitely require at least one bottom liner layer to prevent contamination. These features may also need secondary layers and leak detection systems, depending on local regulations and the particular material being handled in the system.

Pond Liners

Geomembranes are particularly popular as pond liners, even when the pond in question is holding mining waste rather than fresh water and fish. Ponds are the most popular option for holding large amounts of water and waste in the mining industry. Digging into the ground to support the weight of a large storage area makes more sense than building above ground and spending extra money to reinforce the holding structures. Even if above ground tanks are preferred for holding smaller amounts of the total wastewater for processing, ponds are better for bulk storage and long-term holding.

Heap Leaching Pads

Heap leaching is a widely used technique that efficiently separates valuable minerals and metal ores without much energy use. However, this technique requires a durable liner that can withstand the heavy weight and sharp edges of the heaped material. Since leaching involves the gradual dissolving of desired ores and minerals, this runoff must be captured for later refinement. If the heap is built without a proper leaching pad, the runoff will escape into the environment and waste valuable materials. Leaching processes also involve harsh chemicals such as cyanide to break the minerals and ores loose from the bulk crushed rock material. Make sure to choose a liner that can handle that kind of chemical exposure year after year.

Dams and Secondary Containment Basins

Dams blocking the overflow areas for large ponds and other in-ground structures require careful lining too. For the best results, pond lining materials like geomembranes should flow seamlessly from the main structure over the dam. This ensures a leak-free design that doesn’t stretch or bulge at the base of the dam where pressure is the highest. If secondary containment basins are needed for other tanks and storage units, flexible geomembrane liners are generally the easiest choice. Pre-cast and temporary containment methods are both expensive and highly limited. Flexible liners are easily cut and shaped to fit the largest secondary containment structures with a low permeability surface that stops leaks and seepage.

Soil Reinforcement for Slopes and Roads

Mining sites generally require miles of continuous and interconnected roadways and paths to link the various extraction and processing sites. While these roads are generally left unpaved and covered only with gravel, lining them with a geomembrane is often a recommended practice as well. Geomembrane works well as a road base material whether used for temporary or permanent roads. Roads built with a geomembrane layer are less likely to erode or collapse, especially when built on the steep sides of a large strip mine. Slopes prone to erosion are also commonly reinforced with geomembranes or other geotextiles to prevent soil loss and landslides.

Ditch and Canal Liners

Canals and ditches are needed to connect the many tanks and ponds used in the mining refinement stages. These in-ground, open air, water carrying structures offer far more volume and flow capacity than any enclosed pipe. Yet just like ponds and other storage units that make up the mining system, these ditches and canals need proper lining to prevent water loss and evaporation. Flexible liners are essential for filling in the smaller spaces of these parts of the system. To eliminate leaks as much as possible, use the same geomembrane material for the ponds and tanks as you use in the canals and ditches.

Covers and Evaporation Controls

Don’t forget about the potential need for covers on top of the process pond or heap leaching pad either. Many mining ponds and tanks are left open to the air in order to let gases escape as they form. However, this can cause either unwanted water gains due to the flow of rainfall into the pond or a high concentration of minerals due to evaporation. Covers made from materials like ArmorCover are ideal for keeping vapors, gases, unwanted water intake and evaporation under control. These flexible liners can be removed and replaced as needed if conditions change between seasons.

With so many uses for a quality geomembrane in the mining industry, it’s unsurprising that nearly half of all relevant materials are purchased by these companies. The same tough and flexible liners that work well for primary containment in large ponds also double as secondary containment and ditch liners when used with care. Find the geomembranes you need, including plenty of cover options, here at BTL Liners.


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