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Developing a geo-environmental model for long-term post-mining management: the former Salsigne Gold Mine area (France)

Paper from the Proceedings of Mine Closure 2015 conference held in Vancouver, Canada, June 1-3, 2015. (downloadable PDF)

Authors: F. Le Loher and F. Cottard, French Geological Survey (BRGM), France; P. Chartier, Languedoc-Roussillon Division, French Ministry of Environment, France

Published by InfoMine Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-9917905-9-3
Copyright: 2015, InfoMine Inc.


Abstract

The Salsigne mine in southern France was one of the largest gold and arsenic mines in Europe, producing 105 t of gold and almost 200,000 t of arsenic compounds over the period of a century. The site is characterised by a complex geological context associating gold-bearing sulphide deposits hosted by carbonate meta-sedimentary rocks and thrust-controlled ore emplacement. Different types of sulphidic ores have been processed using several pyro-metallurgic and hydrometallurgical methods, one after the other or combined over time. These have generated significant quantities of mining waste, mainly in the form of tailings, which was the source of a serious arsenic contamination in the surrounding soils, surface and groundwater. The operator closed the mine in 2004, and the French government rehabilitated highly contaminated areas at the same time.

Since 2006, on behalf of the French State, BRGM has run a comprehensive program to monitor the residual impacts related to mining and metallurgical waste disposals, as well as the flooding of underground workings. A geo-environmental model has been designed to help understand the natural processes taking place at different sites — in particular, the La Combe du Saut former mineral processing site. This required the integration of current monitoring data with results from specific investigations conducted on groundwater geochemistry. The model also takes into account other data, such as ore deposit geology, watershed characteristics and information related to historical operations.

The use of a geo-environmental model is a practical approach for integrating past and current monitoring data within the complex geological and hydrogeological context. During the post-closure phase, it provides the authorities with a low-cost means to help control long-term residual risks and prioritize effective remedial actions. It can also be used to review solid waste management practices applied in the 1980s and 1990s with the objective of proposing new guidelines for operational mines on aspects like waste storage design, location, construction and closure options.


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