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A Solute Transport Model for the Acid Leaching of Copper in Soil Columns

In this study, a two-dimensional mathematical solute transport model is proposed to simulate the leaching of copper ore tailings using sulfuric acid as the leaching agent, injection wells to introduce the leaching agent, and pumping wells to retrieve the pregnant copper leach solution. To calibrate the model, a tracer experiment and a leaching experiment were performed, both under conditions of a single-direction flow pattern established between two boundaries of constant height. These experiments enabled the model hydraulic, dispersion and reaction parameters to be determined. Validation of the model was performed by comparison of the numerical results given by the model with experimental results obtained from a second leaching experiment, performed under conditions of a radial flow pattern established through the use of four injection wells and one pumping well and making use of the parameters estimated previously during the calibration process. The comparison between predicted and measured leaching behavior was good (20–22% error). The study has significant implications for applications related to the use of the proposed numerical model for predicting the performance of in-situ soil washing alternatives.