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Modeling and management of pit lake water chemistry 1: Theory

June 1, 2015

Pit lakes are permanent hydrologic/landscape features that can result from open pit mining for metals, coal, uranium, diamonds, oil sands, and aggregates. Risks associated with pit lakes include local and regional impacts to water quality and related impacts to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Stakeholders rely on predictive models of water chemistry to prepare for and manage these risks. This paper is the first of a two part series on the modeling and management of pit lakes. Herein, we review approaches that have been used to quantify wall-rock runoff geochemistry, wall-rock leachate geochemistry, pit lake water balance, pit lake limnology (i.e. extent of vertical mixing), and pit lake water quality, and conclude with guidance on the application of models within the mine life cycle. The purpose of this paper is to better prepare stakeholders, including future modelers, mine managers, consultants, permitting agencies, land management agencies, regulators, research scientists, academics, and other interested parties, for the challenges of predicting and managing future pit lakes in un-mined areas.