This report provides a perspective on the amount of water necessary for conventional gold heap-leach operations. Water is required for drilling and dust suppression during mining, for agglomeration and as leachate during ore processing, to support the workforce (requires water in potable form and for sanitation), for minesite reclamation, and to compensate for water lost to evaporation and leakage. Maintaining an adequate water balance is especially critical in areas where surface and groundwater are difficult to acquire because of unfavorable climatic conditions [arid conditions and (or) a high evaporation rate]; where there is competition with other uses, such as for agriculture, industry, and use by municipalities; and where compliance with regulatory requirements may restrict water usage. Estimating the water consumption of heap-leach operations requires an understanding of the heap-leach process itself. The task is fairly complex because, although they all share some common features, each gold heap-leach operation is unique. Also, estimating the water consumption requires a synthesis of several fields of science, including chemistry, ecology, geology, hydrology, and meteorology, as well as consideration of economic factors.
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USGS Numbered Series
Estimated water requirements for gold heap-leach operations