Where Can Geomembranes Be Used in Mining Reclamation and Rehabilitation?

As an essential part of the mining industry, geomembranes can be used for multiple, varying uses in each location. Though assorted applications may have somewhat different thicknesses, stiffnesses, flexibility, reinforcement, or similar aspects, most applications you'll run into on a mine site are able to be solved using very similar types of materials. In some situations, geomembranes can be adapted to virtually every need the mining industry has, providing you with more reliable production and better profit margins for your company by lowering both your liability as well as your overhead.

Full Containment Bottom Liners

Setting up full containment liners for your mining materials, waste, and tailing ponds provides your mine with a primary defense against environmental impact. By installing this type of liner underneath your equipment and ponds that process, hold, or store material, you can prevent spills and losses on your mining site. Though a continuous layer under your entire facility can seem challenging, it can be much easier than you'd think when you're using the proper materials. For heap leaching pads and mining tailing ponds, you'll use at least one bottom layer for preventing contamination, though some local regulations may require a secondary layer or layers in addition to a leak detection system.

Impervious Pond Liners

Whether your pond is holding mining tailings or fresh water and fish after reclamation, geomembranes are an exceptional option for your needs. As the most popular option to hold waste and water in large quantities for the mining industry, ponds are fast and easy to construct by simply digging down to allow the earth to support the weight of storage instead of the reinforcement needed for large above-ground structures. This allows you to have on-site storage for long-term holding and bulk storage without having to worry about contamination. This is because the impervious geomembrane holds your entire contaminated supply of water or material, keeping it contained to a much smaller area that will be far easier to remediate in the long run.

Heap Leaching Pads

As a widely used technique, to efficiently separate minerals or metal ores without a lot of energy input, heap leaching is very popular. However, the process also requires durable liners that are able to hold up to the sharp edges and extensive weight of the material on the heap. Because the technique requires the desired ores and minerals to be dissolved, the runoff has to be captured to be refined at a later point. Creating a heap without a leaching pad beneath it means that the runoff will move into the soil, water, and environment, wasting the material you're trying to extract, while also allowing cyanide and other toxic, and expensive, leaching chemicals to escape into the environment. Thus, causing a serious threat to public health and wellness. For this reason, selecting a liner that is able to deal with a high level of abuse, for many years, is vital to your operation's profitability, public image, and overall financial health.

Dams/Secondary Containment Basins

Because these structures are essentially your backup plan for your larger ponds and similar in-ground structures, you'll want to make sure they're also carefully lined, to help prevent contamination during a crisis. Geomembrane pond lining materials should move without any seams from your main structure over the top of the dam. This will create a leak-free design that prevents stretching and bulging at your dam's base, where the pressure of the water is at its highest. If you need secondary containment basins for your other tanks and storage, using flexible geomembrane liners provides an easy option. Though you could move to pre-cast or temporary containment options, these alternatives tend to be both highly limited as well as expensive. You can easily cut and shape your flexible geomembrane liner to fit even the largest secondary containment basins while still enjoying low permeability in your basins, while stopping seepage and leaks that can contaminate the soil and groundwater in your operation's area. This also applies to remediation, when you can add another layer for ponds and lakes created for recreational use to prevent seepage, water loss, and potential contamination.

Slope and Road Soil Reinforcement

To link the extraction and processing sites, most mines have many miles of interconnected, continuous roads and drives. Though they're typically unpaved and covered with a thin layer of gravel. Adding a layer of geomembrane as an underlayer is often recommended because it works so well as a road base material beneath the heavy loads that are carried upon it by equipment and material being moved into and out of the mine site. This makes the roads much less likely to erode with rain and wind, or to collapse under the pressure of loaded dump trucks moving in and out of the mine. This is especially true on the steep sides of larger strip mines. You can also reinforce the slopes between roads with geomembranes or geotextiles so that soil loss and landslide risk are minimized as much as economically feasible. Similarly, you can take this approach as you undertake rehabilitation of the site. Using geomembranes as a solid layer between the road and the soil below, makes the roads more stable, therefore requiring less maintenance as the years roll forward.

Lining Ditches and Canals

You'll also want to line your ditches and canals that are moving water alongside roadways as you remediate your mine. Similarly, canals that move surface water along the site should be lined to prevent the water from coming into contact with contaminated mining material below the surface. As in-ground, open-air, water-bearing structures, they provide much better flow capacity and volume than enclosed pipes, but they can also lose water below the surface to the soil or to evaporation. Incorporating a good geomembrane to line your canals and ditches allows your mining operation to avoid contamination during active use and afterward. As site reclamation and rehabilitation are underway, providing an additional layer of protection against groundwater and surface water contamination is paramount.

Covers/Evaporation Controls

Especially if you're dealing with a particular toxic material, are mining in an area that has low air moisture or are mining in a location with a lot of rainfall, adding covers can make a huge difference. By preventing gasses from escaping, you're protecting local air quality. Additionally, covering ponds and tanks can prevent dilution and overflow from excess rainfall or excessive evaporation in dryer areas to prevent extreme concentrations. The flexible liners can be removed or replaced when conditions change due to seasons or climate change.

Given these many uses for good geomembrane products in mining, it's probably not a surprise that 40% of the geomembrane market is purchased by mines. Because they work well as primary containment as well as for secondary containment and other lining and capping processes, this tough, flexible material provides plenty of options for your mining operation. Check out the BTL Liners website, or reach out to one of our expert team members to find the perfect geomembrane for your mine's needs.


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