Predicting ground-water movement in large mine spoil areas in the Appalachian Plateau

International Journal of Coal Geology
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Abstract

Spoil created by surface mining can accumulate large quantities of ground-water, which can create geotechnical or regulatory problems, as well as flood active mine pits. A current study at a large (4.1 km2), thick, (up to 90 m) spoil body in eastern Kentucky reveals important factors that control the storage and movement of water. Ground-water recharge occurs along the periphery of the spoil body where surface-water drainage is blocked, as well as from infiltration along the spoil-bedrock contact, recharge from adjacent bedrock, and to a minor extent, through macropores at the spoil's surface. Based on an average saturated thickness of 6.4 m for all spoil wells, and assuming an estimated porosity of 20%, approximately 5.2 x 106 m3 of water is stored within the existing 4.1 km2 of reclaimed spoil. A conceptual model of ground-water flow, based on data from monitoring wells, dye-tracing data, discharge from springs and ponds, hydraulic gradients, chemical data, field reconnaissance, and aerial photographs indicate that three distinct but interconnected saturated zones have been established: one in the spoil's interior, and others in the valley fills that surround the main spoil body at lower elevations. Ground-water movement is sluggish in the spoil's interior, but moves quickly through the valley fills. The conceptual model shows that a prediction of ground-water occurrence, movement, and quality can be made for active or abandoned spoil areas if all or some of the following data are available: structural contour of the base of the lowest coal seam being mined, pre-mining topography, documentation of mining methods employed throughout the mine, overburden characteristics, and aerial photographs of mine progression.Spoil created by surface mining can accumulate large quantities of ground-water, which can create geotechnical or regulatory problems, as well as flood active mine pits. A current study at a large (4.1 km2), thick, (up to 90 m) spoil body in eastern Kentucky reveals important factors that control the storage and movement of water. Ground-water recharge occurs along the periphery of the spoil body where surface-water drainage is blocked, as well as from infiltration along the spoil-bedrock contact, recharge from adjacent bedrock, and to a minor extent, through macropores at the spoil's surface. Based on an average saturated thickness of 6.4 m for all spoil wells, and assuming an estimated porosity of 20%, approximately 5.2 ?? 106 m3 of water is stored within the existing 4.1 km2 of reclaimed spoil. A conceptual model of ground-water flow, based on data from monitoring wells, dye-tracing data, discharge from springs and ponds, hydraulic gradients, chemical data, field reconnaissance, and aerial photographs indicate that three distinct but interconnected saturated zones have been established: one in the spoil's interior, and others in the valley fills that surround the main spoil body at lower elevations. Ground-water movement is sluggish in the spoil's interior, but moves quickly through the valley fills. The conceptual model shows that a prediction of ground-water occurrence, movement, and quality can be made for active or abandoned spoil areas if all or some of the following data are available: structural contour of the base of the lowest coal seam being mined, pre-mining topography, documentation of mining methods employed throughout the mine, overburden characteristics, and aerial photographs of mine progression.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Predicting ground-water movement in large mine spoil areas in the Appalachian Plateau
Series title International Journal of Coal Geology
DOI 10.1016/S0166-5162(99)00012-9
Volume 41
Issue 1-2
Year Published 1999
Language English
Publisher Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.
Publisher location Amsterdam, Netherlands
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title International Journal of Coal Geology
First page 73
Last page 106