Granduc

Proglacial Mining Projects (Open File)

Posted by William Colgan on January 08, 2015
Applied Glaciology, Glaciers and Society / No Comments

Proglacial mines, meaning mining operations adjacent to, or very close to, glaciers, face a variety of unique glaciological challenges not present in conventional mining operations: (1) Removing ice overburden to access a subglacial ore introduces both ice excavation and ice flow management challenges. (2) In addition to potential crevasse hazards, supraglacial vehicle access roads must use adaptive engineering to counteract ice movement (both horizontal and vertical) as well as differential surface ablation. (3) Tremendous glacier meltwater runoff, concentrated during the summer melt season, can be difficult to route across highly transient glacier surfaces in order to minimize site inflow/contact water. (4) The dust created by open pit operations or access roads can darken the surface of nearby glaciers, enhancing their solar absorption and surface melt rates, and ultimately expand the impact footprint of a mine. (5) The catastrophic drainage of supraglacial and/or ice-dammed lakes represent outburst flood hazards which can rapidly increase site inflow rates. (6) Subglacial hydrology can interact with the groundwater seepage in underground mining operations beneath glaciers. We touch on some of these glaciological hazards in the new textbook: “Snow and Ice-Related Hazards, Risks, and Disasters”. These geotechnical challenges make proglacial mining projects very unique. I started this “open file” inventory of proglacial mining projects (past, present and future) and their associated glaciological challenges as I pull together information for an applied glaciology review paper. Please alert me to any errors or oversights!

ProjectPrime
Minerals
LocationGlaciological ChallengesApparent
Status
Isua
[Fig. 1]
Fe 65.195 °N, 49.790 °W
(Greenland)
- ice removal / flow management
- glacier access roads
- meltwater runoff
- supraglacial lake outbursts
- darkening of nearby glaciers
Approved in 2013.
Kumtor
[Fig. 2]
Au41.862 °N, 78.196 °E
(Kyrgyzstan)
- ice removal / flow management
- glacier access roads
- meltwater runoff
- darkening of nearby glaciers
Active since 1997.
Kerr-Sulphurets-
Mitchell
[Fig. 3]
Au, Ag, Cu, Mo56.491 °N, 130.335 °W
(Canada)
- glacier access roads
- meltwater runoff
- darkening of nearby glaciers
Approved in 2014.
TutoN/A76.417 °N, 68.269°W
(Greenland)
- ice removal / flow management
- glacier access roads
- meltwater runoff
Historic project (1955 to 1959).
GranducCu56.247 °N, 130.089 °W
(Canada)
- ice removal / flow management
- meltwater runoff
- darkening of nearby glaciers
Historic project (1964 to 1983).
MalmbjergMo 71.964 °N, 24.289 °W
(Greenland)
- glacier access roads
- meltwater runoff
- darkening of nearby glaciers
Prospect.
Brucejack
[Fig. 3]
Au, Ag56.468 °N, 130.164 °W
(Canada)
- glacier access roads
- meltwater runoff
Approved in 2015.
Maarmorilik
(Phase Two expansion)
Zn, Pb71.094 °N, 51.027°W
(Greenland)
- meltwater runoff
- darkening of nearby glaciers
Prospect.
Svea Nord | Gruve
[Fig. 6]
C77.893 °N, 16.689 °E
(Norway)
- subglacial miningActive since 2001.
El Morro
(La Fortuna expansion)
[Fig. 4]
Cu, Au33.167 °S, 70.274 °W
(Chile)
- darkening of nearby glaciersActive since c. 2008.
Permit suspended in 2014.
Pascua Lama
[Fig. 5]
Au, Ag29.327 °S, 70.035°W
(Chile / Argentina)
- darkening of nearby glaciersActive since 2010.
Permit suspended in 2013.
KvanefjeldU60.963 °N, 45.957 °W
(Greenland)
- darkening of nearby glaciersProspect.
Red MountainAu, Ag55.970 °N, 129.721 °W
(Canada)
- proglacial and/or subglacial depositsProspect.
Grasberg [Fig. 7]Au, Cu4.060 °S, 137.146 °E
(Indonesia)
- darkening of nearby glaciers
- glacier removal to access subglacial deposit
Active since c. 1995.

Below are some site overview figures, they are available for distribution without attribution tags as well. I hope to make one for each project by the end of 2015. Content on this page can be cited as:

Colgan, W., H. Thomsen and M. Citterio. in press. Unique Applied Glaciology Challenges of Proglacial Mining. Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland Bulletin.

Isua_Mine

Figure 1 – The Isua Mine in Greenland: Contemporary ice margins, proposed approximate pit area, and winter 2005/06 ice surface velocity vectors overlaid on a 2014 Landsat image.

Kumtor_Mine

Figure 2 – The Kumtor mine in Kyrgyzstan: Historic ice margins and contemporary mine area overlaid on a 2014 Landsat image.

Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell_Mine_Brucejack_Prospect

Figure 3 – The Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell Mine and Bruckjack Prospect in Canada: Contemporary ice margins, approximate mine surface areas, and proposed supraglacial access roads overlaid on a 2014 Landsat image.

El_Morro_Mine

Figure 4 – The El Morro mine in Chile: Contemporary ice margins and mine area overlaid on a 2014 Landsat image.

Pascua_Lama_Mine

Figure 5 – The Pascua Lama mine on the Chile/Argentina border: Contemporary ice margins and mine area overlaid on a 2014 Landsat image. The Valadero mine is also visible immediately south of the Pascua Lama mine.

Svea_Nord_and_Gruve_Mines

Figure 6 – The Svea Nord / Gruve Mines in Svalbard (Norway): Contemporary ice margins and underground mine area overlaid on a 2014 Landsat image.

Grasberg_w_label2

Figure 7 – Grasberg Mine in Indonesia: Contemporary mine area and ice margins in a 2003 Landsat image.

 

 

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Proglacial Mines: Ice Flow and Infrastructure

Posted by William Colgan on September 15, 2014
Applied Glaciology, Glaciology History / No Comments

Last week Radio Free Europe released some photos of the Kumtor Gold Mine in Kyrgyzstan, where Centerra Gold Inc has been excavating approximately 10 MT of ice per year from the Lysii and Davidov Glaciers that flow into the open pit. In 2012 Mining.com reported that production estimates were down-revised due to a combination of “substantial acceleration of ice” and labor disruptions. These recent photos show infrastructure damage resulting from what appears to be glacier advance.

While no doubt curious, such a geotechnical management challenge would not be unique. In 1977, Eyles and Rogerson described how several positive mass balance years on the Berendon Glacier in Canada could cause sufficient terminus advance to threaten the adjacent Granduc Operating Company ore processing plant. In response, the Granduc Operating Company began discharging 30°C wastewater, year-round for five years, directly on to the glacier terminus to prevent advance. Glaciers are indeed dynamic landscape features for planning purposes!

Radio Free Europe photo series: http://www.rferl.org/content/qishloq-ovozi-kumtor-gold-mine-bad-shape/26555319.html

Eyles, N. and R. Rogerson. 1977. Artificially induced thermokarst in active glacier ice: An example from northwest British Columbia, Canada. Journal of Glaciology. 18: 437–444.

Kumtor_glacier_damage

Infrastructure damage resulting from what appears to be glacier advance at the Kumtor Mine in Kyrgyzstan (from Radio Free Europe: Kumtor Gold Mine Appears To Be In Bad Shape)

Granduc_glacier_thermokarst

Intentional thermokarst of the Berendon Glacier by the Granduc Operating Company. Red line denotes Summit Lake stream, which has been diverted upglacier at A. Hot waste water is added at B, and flow is subglacial until C. The stream exits the glacier terminus at D. (from Eyles and Rogerson, 1977)

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