Towards more sustainable minefills - Replacement of ordinary portland cement with geopolymer cements

D. C. Southam, G. F. Brent, F. Felipe, C. Carr, R. D. Hart, K. Wright

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference presentation/ephemerapeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


In underground operations, where copper, gold and other metals are mined, the open stopes can be backfilled to stabilise surrounding workings. This fill may consist of tailings from the processing plant, usually mixed in slurry with a binder such as ordinary Portland cement (OPC). Extensive use is made of tailings in OPC-based paste fill, cemented hydraulic fill or cemented aggregate fill applications. A large underground operation such as the Mount Isa Copper Operations utilises over three million tonnes of backfill per annum. Geopolymers offer an alternative binder system with significant environmental advantages over OPC. Geopolymers are formed by polymerisation of aluminosilicate precursors in an alkali medium. They generally form products with superior strength characteristics as well as increased resistance to degradation, particularly under acidic conditions. Geopolymers have lower carbon dioxide emissions associated with their manufacture than OPC and offer further potential advantages, such as the use of less water and more waste materials. The application of geopolymers to weak material systems such as mine backfill has not been widely studied. The aims of this investigation were to assess a range of Australian mine process wastes for suitability as feedstocks in fill applications and to construct a range of these cemented minefills using a geopolymer binder. The physicochemical characteristics of each of the wastes are discussed as well as how they ultimately contribute to the geopolymer cement through direct replacement of OPC. Results from various tests on the candidate geopolymer fill formulations are presented and the potential of such fill formulations to replace OPC in mine backfilling operations is highlighted. The significant potential contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the use of geopolymer-based mine backfill across the industry is noted. Conversion of a single mine, such as the Mount Isa Copper Operations, is shown to match the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions due to the current total installed photovoltaic electricity generation capacity of Australia. A similar examination of wastes available to a gold mine could potentially yield new binders for use in established or new fill systems.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes
EventWorld Gold 2007 By the Co-Products and the Environment - Cairns, QLD, Australia
Duration: 22 Oct 200724 Oct 2007


ConferenceWorld Gold 2007 By the Co-Products and the Environment
CityCairns, QLD


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