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U.S. Geological Survey
Open-File Report 03-143
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Version 1.0

Physical Aspects of Waste Storage from a Hypothetical Open Pit Porphyry Copper Operation

By Kenneth E. Porter and Donald I. Bleiwas


Copper porphyry deposits are most often mined as open pit operations. The deposits' relatively low ore grade and high-tonnage production generate significant amounts of solid waste compared with the units of copper recovered. Approximately 98 percent of the material extracted from the mine reports to waste storage. These wastes can be subdivided into three major categories -- leach rock, mill tailings, and waste rock. This report describes the physical attributes that compose the "footprint" (the space occupied) generated by a model open pit copper porphyry mining and milling operation. This model represents only one possible scenario for accommodating waste from an open pit copper mine. Other options include waste and tailings storage that uses different geometry and design, placing waste back into the pit (backfilling) following the mine's production life, or using waste material as an aggregate (road base or concrete). Selection of engineering and other criteria presented in this study is based on accepted industry standards. A base model is provided in the main text. In Appendix A, figures and tables are provided with a range of values for various engineering parameters.

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This report is preliminary and has not been reviewed for conformity to U.S. Geological Survey editorial standards and stratigraphic nomenclature. Any use of trade, product, or firm names in this publication is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Contact Information

For questions about the scientific content of this report, contact Kenneth E. Porter.

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