Oxygen transport and pyrite oxidation in unsaturated coal-mine spoil

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An understanding of the mechanisms of oxygen (02) transport in unsaturated mine spoil is necessary to design and implement effective measures to exclude 02 from pyritic materials and to control the formation of acidic mine drainage. Partial pressure of oxygen (Po2) in pore gas, chemistry of pore water, and temperature were measured at different depths in unsaturated spoil at two reclaimed surface coal mines in Pennsylvania. At mine 1, where spoil was loose, blocky sandstone, Po2 changed little with depth, decreasing from 21 volume percent (vol%) at the ground surface to a minimum of about 18 vol% at 10 m depth. At mine 2, where spoil was compacted, friable shale, Po2 decreased to less than 2 vol% at depth of about 10 m. Although pore-water chemistry and temperature data indicate that acid-forming reactions were active at both mines, the pore-gas data indicate that mechanisms for 0 2 transport were different at each mine. A numerical model was developed to simulate 02 transport and pyrite oxidation in unsaturated mine spoil. The results of the numerical simulations indicate that differences in 02 transport at the two mines can be explained by differences in the air permeability of spoil. Po2 changes little with depth if advective transport of 02 dominates as at mine 1, but decreases greatly with depth if diffusive transport of 02 dominates, as in mine 2. Model results also indicate that advective transport becomes significant if the air permeability of spoil is greater than 10-9 m2, which is expected for blocky sandstone spoil. In the advective-dominant system, thermally-induced convective air flow, as a consequence of the exothermic oxidation of pyrite, supplies the 02 to maintain high Po2 within the deep unsaturated zone.

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Oxygen transport and pyrite oxidation in unsaturated coal-mine spoil
Year Published 1996
Language English
Publisher America Society of Mining and Recreation
Contributing office(s) Pennsylvania Water Science Center
Description 12 p.
Larger Work Title Proceedings America Society of Mining and Recreation
First page 3
Last page 14
Conference Title 13th Annual Meeting of the ASSMR
Conference Location Knoxville, TN
Conference Date May 18-23, 1996
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