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Open-File Report 2012–1085

Estimated Water Requirements for Gold Heap-Leach Operations

By Donald I. Bleiwas

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This report provides a perspective on the amount of water necessary for conventional gold heap-leach operations. Water is required for drilling and dust suppression during mining, for agglomeration and as leachate during ore processing, to support the workforce (requires water in potable form and for sanitation), for minesite reclamation, and to compensate for water lost to evaporation and leakage. Maintaining an adequate water balance is especially critical in areas where surface and groundwater are difficult to acquire because of unfavorable climatic conditions [arid conditions and (or) a high evaporation rate]; where there is competition with other uses, such as for agriculture, industry, and use by municipalities; and where compliance with regulatory requirements may restrict water usage.

Estimating the water consumption of heap-leach operations requires an understanding of the heap-leach process itself. The task is fairly complex because, although they all share some common features, each gold heap-leach operation is unique. Also, estimating the water consumption requires a synthesis of several fields of science, including chemistry, ecology, geology, hydrology, and meteorology, as well as consideration of economic factors.

Revised December 11, 2012, Version 1.1

Posted May 3, 2012

For additional information contact:
Donald Bleiwas
U.S. Geological Survey
P.O. Box 25046, Mail Stop 750
Denver Federal Center
Lakewood, CO 80225–0046
Telephone: (303) 236-5200

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Bleiwas, D.I., 2012, Estimated water requirements for gold heap-leach operations (ver. 1.1, December 11, 2012): U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2012–1085, 17 p., available only at



The Heap-Leach Process

Heap-Leach Designs

Ore Capacity and Production of Gold Heap-Leach Operations

Estimated Annual Water Requirements


References Cited

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