Year of Publication

2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Engineering

Department

Mining Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Rick Q. Honaker

Abstract

Modern coal preparation facilities incorporate a wide array of solid-solid and solid-liquid separation processes for rejecting mineral matter to meet market specifications. The coarse mineral matter is typically placed into engineered refuse piles whereas the fine refuse is either stored in impoundments or co-disposed with the coarse refuse. The discharge water from the refuse material represents an environmental concern due to the potential release of trace elements, and the subsequent elevation of total dissolved solids and conductivity. The research findings reported in this dissertation addresses sustainable coal processing waste disposal through using strategies aimed at minimizing the environmental impacts. To provide an accurate and inexpensive method to assess the potential environmental effects of a given waste material, a conductivity screening-level test was modified to incorporate the impact of particle surface area. The test was used on various waste streams as well as the particle size and density fractions of each waste stream to identify environmentally sensitive components that can be separated from the bulk and isolated to prevent negative environmental impacts. The results were subsequently evaluated for long term mobility of trace elements under different disposal scenarios: (i) static leaching tests designed to simulate the quiescent conditions in a stable impoundment, and (ii) a dynamic test to simulate waste materials exposed to the atmosphere in variable wet/dry storage conditions. The results indicated that liberating, separating and isolating the highest density fractions (>2.68 SG) which represents less than 5% of the coal refuse materials results in significant abatement of total dissolved solids and conductivity. Required modifications of the coal processing plants were suggested to segregate and subsequently isolate the environmentally sensitive fractions from the remaining refuse material.

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