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Article
The Significance of Groundwater Flow Modeling
Study for Simulation of Opencast Mine Dewatering,
Flooding, and the Environmental Impact
Jacek Szczepiński
Poltegor-Institute, Institute of Opencast Mining, 51-616 Wrocław, Poland; jacek.szczepinski@igo.wroc.pl

Received: 21 January 2019; Accepted: 18 April 2019; Published: 23 April 2019 

Abstract: Simulations of open pit mines dewatering, their flooding, and environmental impact
assessment are performed using groundwater flow models. They must take into consideration both
regional groundwater conditions and the specificity of mine dewatering operations. This method has
been used to a great extent in Polish opencast mines since the 1970s. However, the use of numerical
models in mining hydrogeology has certain limitations resulting from existing uncertainties as to the
assumed hydrogeological parameters and boundary conditions. They include shortcomings in the
identification of hydrogeological conditions, cyclic changes of precipitation and evaporation, changes
resulting from land management due to mining activity, changes in mining work schedules, and
post-mining void flooding. Even though groundwater flow models used in mining hydrogeology
have numerous limitations, they still provide the most comprehensive information concerning the
mine dewatering and flooding processes and their influence on the environment. However, they will
always require periodical verification based on new information on the actual response of the aquifer
system to the mine drainage and the actual climate conditions, as well as up-to-date schedules of
deposit extraction and mine closure.

Keywords: open pit; dewatering; flooding; groundwater modeling; Poland

1. Introduction
In the mining industry, water-related problems are among the most important aspects which
can decide whether a new mine development will be reasonable or even feasible. For an assessment
into the costs of mining operations, the rate of mine water inflow, dewatering technology, and the
environmental impact of mine drainage are all important factors. In the past, one would mainly focus
on the hazards connected with mine water inflow; at present, most of the attention is focused on
flooding the post-mining voids and the environmental impact assessment [1].
At the initial stage of research, to estimate the mine water inflow, one typically applies the
methods of hydrogeological analogy or hydrogeological balance. Hydrogeological calculations are
usually performed using classical analytical methods described in numerous textbooks [2–5]. Further
investigations are dominated by numerical methods. They are used throughout the mine’s whole
life-cycle. Numerical methods allow forecasting the process of mine dewatering as well as the process
of flooding the post-mining excavations with greater accuracy than any other method. They can assess
the impact of dewatering on groundwater, surface water, water chemistry, water intakes, soil, flora,
farmlands and forests, land subsidence, and others. Particularly, the process of flooding post-mining
voids with complex geometry and diversified hydrogeological conditions must rely on numerical
models [6].
Modeling methods were widely used in mining hydrogeology since the beginnings of their
application. Nevertheless, the groundwater flow modeling applied in the mining industry belongs to

Water 2019, 11, 848; doi:10.3390/w11040848 www.mdpi.com/journal/water


Water 2019, 11, 848 2 of 16

the most demanding methods in hydrogeology. Because mine dewatering and groundwater rebound
are changing in time and in space, they should be solved in transient conditions. In the area covered by
the dewatering impact, both boundary conditions and hydrogeological parameters need to be updated
in response to hydrogeology and hydrology conditions as well as scope and schedule of mining works
changing due to mining activities.
The topics related to modeling study on mine dewatering and its environmental impact, including
groundwater/surface-water interactions, groundwater resources, and hydrogeochemistry, have been
the subject of many scientific publications which are mentioned in this paper. Papers on mine
water and its impact on the environment appear mainly in the International Mine Water Association
post-conference proceedings and in scientific journals, especially Mine Water and the Environment [7–9],
Groundwater [10–12], Environmental Geology [13,14], and others [15]. In addition, the following
textbooks deserve special attention: Mine Water Hydrology, Pollution, Remediation (in which mine
water hydrology and chemistry are presented with an explanation of the complexities of mine water
pollution and the hydrogeological context of its formation) [16], and Construction Dewatering and
Groundwater Control (which presents the theory and practice of dewatering from the engineering
point of view) [5]. In recent years, extensive monographs on the water management related to flooding
of post-mining voids have appeared: Water Management at Abandoned Underground Flooded Mines.
Fundamentals, Tracer Tests, Modeling, Water Treatment [17]; Mine Pit Lakes: Characteristics, Predictive
Modeling, and Sustainability (Management Technologies for Metal Mining Influenced Water) [18]; and
Acidic Pit Lakes. The Legacy of Coal and Metal Surface Mine [19].
The aim of the paper is to present the specificity of the application of groundwater flow modeling
for simulation of opencast mine dewatering, flooding, and the environmental impact. This paper is a
result of many years of the author’s experience on groundwater flow modeling for open-pit dewatering
and its flooding as well as any environmental impact caused by mine dewatering in Poland and abroad.

2. Application of Numerical Modeling in Mining Hydrogeology


The electric analogue computer model using the method of electrohydrodynamic analogy appeared
in the 1930s in the oil industry in the United States. Numerical models in calculations of groundwater
flow model have been used since the 1960s. In 1965, a paper was published on the use of these methods
for solving the groundwater flow equation [20], and, in 1968, a digital-computer program was written
to solve linear, parabolic, and partial-differential equations based upon an implicit finite-difference
technique [21].
A significant increase in the use of numerical methods occurred in the first half of the 1970s,
with the appearance of the Prickett-Lonnquist Aquifer Simulation Model (PLASM) [22] and the U.S.
Geological Survey (USGS) model [23], which solved the three-dimensional groundwater flow model
based on the finite difference method. The history of the beginnings of groundwater flow modeling
was extensively presented by Bredehoeft [24].
In the mining industry, groundwater flow models are applied in a wide range using both the
finite difference method and the finite element method for porous aquifers as well as fissured aquifers.
Currently, both in Poland and around the world, the MODFLOW program based on the finite difference
method [25,26] and the FEFLOW program based on the finite element method [27] are used the most
extensively in mining hydrogeology. The modeling results usually simultaneously include a prediction
of the mine water inflow, an input parameters into an environmental impact assessment, and the
water management of the post-mining excavation. The present state of groundwater flow modeling
applications in mining hydrogeology was presented by Rapantova et al. [9].
In mining, groundwater flow modeling represents both regional (aquifer system) and local issues
(mining excavation area). Numerical modeling is used during each stage of the mining operation,
beginning with deposit exploration to mine decommissioning with mine site rehabilitation. Its purpose
is to deliver reliable forecasts of mine water inflow and the input parameters into an environmental
impact assessment of mine drainage with reference to different scenarios of the deposit opening up and
Water 2019, 11, 848 3 of 16

its extraction, as well as rehabilitation of post-mining excavation. The results of numerical simulations
enable to provide reliable data which help with the decision making at each stage of mining operation:

• Stage of identification, documentation, and opening up of the deposit: Assessment of


hydrogeological conditions of the deposit area, mine water inflow calculation, suggestion on
dewatering technology, determination of the cone of depression and its boundaries, impact
assessment on surface water (watercourses and reservoirs) and groundwater in each dewatering
layer, determination of the area of environmental impact of mining, and indication the necessary
measures to minimize the negative impact on the environment.
• Stage of deposit exploitation: Forecasting the mine water inflow intensity and the change of
groundwater level resulting in changes of geotechnical conditions of slopes in time and space
as the mine develops, as well as determining impacts on the environment based on real data
gathered during previous dewatering.
• Stage of mine decommissioning: An indication of a rational way of flooding and management the
post-mining void, determination of time span for filling an excavation with water, final water
level in the post-mining reservoir, and the forecasting of quantitative and qualitative changes in
the reservoir and its environment during and after flooding.

In many cases, models are also accomplished in order to confirm or reject the mine drainage impact
on the environment. For example, the results of numerical simulation can provide the proof on real
impact of mine dewatering and/or climatic conditions on groundwater level and groundwater resources.

3. Specificity of Application the Modeling Methods for Opencast Mining


The procedure for developing groundwater flow models in surface mining conditions generally
complies with the overall modeling methodology which is presented in many textbooks and
guidelines [28–31]. However, it must be adjusted to the specificity of open pit mine drainage operations.

3.1. Groundwater Flow System Representation


Groundwater flow in the vicinity of open pits or underground mines is three-dimensional in most
cases; consequently, 3-D numerical groundwater flow models must be based on 3-D hydrogeological
data [32] and should be simulated by a full three-dimensional model, with the hydraulic head simulated
for each model layer. It is particularly important in the areas adjacent to the open pits, where the
groundwater flow has a substantial and important 3-D component. For an assessment of the range and
extent of the cone of depression or the mine water inflow, one can apply a quasi-three-dimensional
model which only represents the vertical flow through semi-permeable layers (Figure 1) [33].
A simulation of mine drainage and its influence on the water environment needs a huge amount
of data—more than for other regional models. In order to develop reliable forecasts, it is necessary
to recognize the hydrogeological and hydrological conditions of the deposit and neighborhood
aquifers as well as to identify all environmental, mining and technological factors which can affect
the mine water inflow. The most important factors are: hydrogeological parameters, dewatering
technology, the recharge of aquifers from precipitation and surface water as well as management of
post-mining excavations.
The conceptual model requires not only detailed the identification of hydrogeological conditions
within of the model area but also a correct representation of the mine drainage system (Section 3.2).
The watercourses, lakes, and reservoirs within the model area should be simulated, taking into
consideration their possible drying as well as the re-wetting in the case of groundwater rebound.
General principles of accepting internal and external boundary conditions have been presented
extensively in many studies [28,34–37].
An important step in modeling study is the development of a conceptual model of recharge
processes. It is formed by integrating many factors: Spatial and temporal variability in recharge, climate,
soil and geology, surface topography, hydrology, depth to water, and others [38]. The term “potential
Water 2019, 11, 848 4 of 16

recharge” was introduced by Rushton [39]. This type includes the excesses of precipitation over
evapotranspiration, which subsequently disappear through a local discharge system or by evaporation
from the saturated zone, but which could become a “permanent” recharge by the lowering of a
shallow water table after extraction. Moreover, lowering a shallow water table can induce additional
recharge by reducing evapotranspiration. This concept of potential recharge is important for modeling
future conditions [40]. In Poland, the groundwater table in pre-mining condition is frequently 1–3 m
below the land surface elevation, so evapotranspiration is a very important factor in groundwater
balance. In mining areas, due to the extinction of evapotranspiration from groundwater as a result of a
groundwater table lowering (as well as evaporation from land surface and zone of aeration), induced
groundwater resources (part of a groundwater renewable resources) are created in the area of the cone
of depression [41].

N A S
metre
a.s.l.
N A C D G S
200
160 Q
120
Tn
80
40
Tw
0
-40 Tp
A
-80
-120 M 0 500m

-160

B
Recharge from precipitation and rivers

Mine dewatering system Groundwater intakes


Boundary inflow and outflow
Boundary inflow and outflow

LAYER I

LAYER II

1 2 3 4 5 6 M 7 8 G S 9 10 11

Figure 1. Simplified geological cross-section N-S with the conceptual model suitable for numerical
modelling. Explanation: 1—porous, permeable formations; 2—impermeable and slightly permeable
formations; 3—fissured-karstic formations; 4—lignite; 5—boundary of the Quaternary aquifer; 6—faults;
7—symbols of aquifers; 8—open-pit limits; 9—dewatering wells barriers; 10— direction of groundwater
flow; 11—direction of groundwater percolation [33].

Recharge and evaporation boundary conditions should ensure the appropriate representation of
effective infiltration and its changes during water table fluctuation whenever such changes take place.
Generally, recharge in groundwater models can be represented with constant head boundary conditions,
specified-flux boundary conditions, mixed-boundary conditions, or some combination of the mixed
and flux boundary conditions. Modeling studies where transient drawdown cones are developing at
pumping centers are an example where a specified-flux boundary is appropriate for recharge estimation.
Water 2019, 11, 848 5 of 16

However, for variably controlled recharge, the modeler can invoke mixed-boundary conditions or
some combination of the mixed and flux boundary conditions [42].

3.2. Simulation of Opencast Mine Dewatering System


The opencast mine dewatering system is modeled on the basis of information of the planned
location, scope, and schedule of mining works related to the deposit opening up, the mining face
advancement, and the development of the internal dump. Before starting the simulation, it should be
determined at what time and to what depth the groundwater level should be lowered, ensuring the
effective deposit dewatering and safety of slopes of the active mine or post-mining voids. For this
purpose, it is necessary to obtain information from the top and bottom of the deposit seam as well as
the forecasted bench levels. Guidelines for mine drainage are developed on the basis of assumptions
regarding the time advance with which the overburden should be dewatered prior to the start of
mining works. Under Polish law, it is assumed that the required lowering of the groundwater table
(usually one meter below the bottom of the pit) should be obtained for one year before the deposit
begins to be exploited. This requires gradual lowering of pressure in subsequent years.
The location of the mine drainage system and the required groundwater level change, both in time
and in space, must be performed in transient conditions. It can be simulated by boundary conditions
of Type I: Hydraulic head as a function of time; Type II: Flux as a function of time; or Type III: Flux as a
function of head. In the case of semi-permeable layers between aquifers, boundary conditions should
be assigned separately for each layer on the model. The hydraulic contacts between all water-bearing
layers allow for the simulation of the drainage system by the boundary condition assigned to the
lowest aquifer, usually the most important from a dewatering point of view. In MODFLOW, for a mine
dewatering system simulation, the Time-Variant Specified-Head Package can be used, which allows
the user to specify head boundaries that can change within or between stress periods [43].

3.3. Simulation of Post Mining Voids Flooding


To develop a reliable conceptual model for flooding of the post-mining void, the spatial parameters
of a final excavation are required (Figure 2). As a result of changing hydraulic and spatial parameters of
aquifers and new stresses, which appear in the modeled area, the conceptual model used for pre-mining
conditions may require improvement or even updating that represents mining or postmining conditions
properly and improve the predictive numerical model.
Surface water reservoirs are usually hydraulically connected to the groundwater system and can
play a significant role in it. In this sense, their impact is similar to watercourses. They can discharge or
recharge groundwater. Most often in groundwater models, reservoirs are simulated like rivers and
represented by boundary conditions of the first or third type [45,46]. In the conditions of water filling
of post-mining excavations, the water level in the reservoir in the specified time intervals is not known.
Therefore, calculation methods must be used in which the water table level in the reservoir will be
part of the numerical groundwater flow model solution. Such an approach is necessary, for example,
when assessing changes in groundwater flow conditions in the area of reservoirs, which are under
the influence of artificial drainage (mining drainage, groundwater intakes), groundwater recharge
(irrigation, recharge wells, flooding), and climate change [47].
One of the ways of simulating the post-mining reservoir is the so-called method of “high
conductivity cells”, which consists in assigning to the cells representing the reservoir a high value
of hydraulic conductivity, usually several orders higher than the hydraulic conductivity of adjacent
aquifers—for example k = 10,000 m/d [47–50]. In the case of a transient simulation, it is necessary to
assign a specific yield of 1.0 [49,51]. Cells representing the reservoir on the model then become part of
the solution of the numerical equation of groundwater flow, which makes it possible to calculate the
surface water table level (Figures 2 and 3).
The limitations regarding this method include, among others: 1: The method is limited to seepage
lakes; 2: Changes in lake surface area are not accommodated without additional programming; 3: The
Water 2019, 11, 848 6 of 16

method may require a large number of iterations to converge; 4: The magnitude of the calculated head
differential across the lake should be close to zero, but it is sensitive to the imposed regional gradient
and the ratio of the hydraulic conductivity of the aquifer to the hydraulic conductivity assigned to the
lake 2019,
Water nodes11,[47].
x FOR PEER REVIEW 6 of 17

N A S
metre
a.s.l.
200
160 Water reservoir Q
120
80
40 M
0
-40
M Tp
-80
-120 M 0 500m

-160

B
Recharge from precipitation and rivers

Boundary inflow and outflow


Boundary inflow and outflow

Water reservoir
LAYER I

LAYER II

LAYER III

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 M 8 9 10 1

Figure 2. Simplified geological cross-section through the post-mining void (A) with the conceptual
Figure 2. Simplified geological cross-section through the post-mining void (A) with the conceptual
model suitable for numerical modeling (B). Explanation: 1—porous, permeable formations;
model suitable for numerical modeling (B). Explanation: 1—porous, permeable formations; 2—
2—impermeable and slightly permeable formations; 3—fissured-karstic formations; 4—lignite;
impermeable and slightly permeable formations; 3—fissured-karstic formations; 4—lignite; 5—
5—internal dump; 6— boundary of the Quaternary aquifer; 7—faults; 8—symbols of aquifers;
internal dump; 6— boundary of the Quaternary aquifer; 7—faults; 8—symbols of aquifers; 9—open-
9—open-pit limits; 10—direction of groundwater flow; 11—direction of groundwater percolation [44].
pit limits; 10—direction of groundwater flow; 11—direction of groundwater percolation [44].
3.4. Model Calibration and Verification
Surface water reservoirs are usually hydraulically connected to the groundwater system and can
As mine drainage is a process variable in time and space, the models used in mining hydrogeology
play a significant role in it. In this sense, their impact is similar to watercourses. They can discharge
are solved in a transient simulation. However, at the first stage—i.e., for natural conditions, prior to
or recharge groundwater. Most often in groundwater models, reservoirs are simulated like rivers and
the deposit dewatering—the model should be solved in steady-state conditions based on the average
represented by boundary conditions of the first or third type [45,46]. In the conditions of water filling
precipitation and evaporation data, hydrological data (flows and water levels in rivers and lakes),
of post-mining excavations, the water level in the reservoir in the specified time intervals is not
and hydrogeological data (groundwater levels and groundwater flows). Calibration performed under
known. Therefore, calculation methods must be used in which the water table level in the reservoir
steady-state conditions enables the preliminary determination of aquifer recharge as well the horizontal
will be part of the numerical groundwater flow model solution. Such an approach is necessary, for
and vertical hydraulic conductivity of aquifers.
example, when assessing changes in groundwater flow conditions in the area of reservoirs, which are
In case we have data from pumping/aquifer tests or the first period of mine dewatering, a calibration
under the influence of artificial drainage (mining drainage, groundwater intakes), groundwater
to transient conditions can be performed to obtain the preliminary information on the specific yield
recharge (irrigation, recharge wells, flooding), and climate change [47].
and specific storage for the modeled area. In case of no such a data, the next steps of modeling
One of the ways of simulating the post-mining reservoir is the so-called method of "high
in transient conditions must be based on archival data. After dewatering operation starts, model
conductivity cells", which consists in assigning to the cells representing the reservoir a high value of
verification should proceed in transient conditions, taking into account the periods of mine dewatering.
hydraulic conductivity, usually several orders higher than the hydraulic conductivity of adjacent
This requires at least one-time data. This enables the model users to improve the parameter-value
aquifers—for example k = 10,000 m/d [47–50]. In the case of a transient simulation, it is necessary to
estimates determined in the steady-state calibration as well as the calibration to the transient condition
assign a specific yield of 1.0 [49,51]. Cells representing the reservoir on the model then become part
(if available)
of the solutiontoof
improve the estimated
the numerical values
equation of the hydrogeological
of groundwater flow, whichparameters (Figure 4).
makes it possible to calculate
the surface water table level (Figures 2, 3).
Water 2019,
Water 11, x
2019, 11, 848
FOR PEER REVIEW 77 of
of 17
16

Layer High hydraulic conductivity River


185
1 160
2
140
3
125
4
105
5 80

1 10 20 30 40 50
1

10

180

20 160
140
125
A
Water 2019, 11, x FOR PEER 30
REVIEW 8 of 17

transient condition (if available) to improve the estimated values of the hydrogeological parameters
(Figure 4).
Numerical modeling 40 should be understood as an iterative process in which reasonableness of
results at each step should be checked before proceeding to the next step [29]. If the previously
calibrated model does47 not reflect the real system reaction to the introduced stresses, the values
assumed in the model should be 1 re-calibrated
2 180 3 using different datasets. The factors in need of possible
updating include the boundary conditions, aquifer and aquitards, and hydrogeological and spatial
Figure 3. Simulation of a post-mining void using “high conductivity cell” method. Explanation:
parameters,
Figure 3.as well as a of
Simulation modification ofvoid
the role
usingof"high
faultsconductivity
under the cell"
influence of deep mine drainage
1—mine boundary area,a2—surface
post-mining
contour interval, 3—mesh discretization method.
[33]. Explanation: 1—
and leftover rock displacements due to mining activity.
mine boundary area, 2—surface contour interval, 3—mesh discretization [33].
Natural conditions Hydrogeology conditions changing under mining activities
The
Steadylimitations
state simulationsregarding this method include,Transient
among others: 1: The method is limited to
simulation
seepage lakes;
MODEL CALIBRATION2: Changes in lake surface area
MODEL VERIFICATION are not accommodatedFORECAST
without additional
programming; 3: The method may require a large number of iterations to converge; 4: The magnitude
t1 t2 t3 t4 t5 t6
of the calculated head differential across the lake should be close to zero, but it is sensitive to the
Model re-calibration
imposed regional gradient and the ratio of the hydraulic conductivity of the aquifer to the hydraulic
conductivity assigned to the lake nodes [47].
- Mine dewatering system development
- Artificial sealing sections of rivers and watercouses
3.4. Model Calibration and Verification
- Relocated sections of rivers, new sedimentation ponds
- Change of effective infiltration due to change of groundwater level or land development
As mine drainage is a- process
Shutdown orvariable inof groundwater
reconstruction time andintakes space, the models used in mining
- The progress of deposit exploatation
hydrogeology are solved in a transient simulation. However, at and internal dump development
the first stage—i.e., for natural
- Other phenomena (i.e.waste dumps development, recharge of aquifer by industrial water)
conditions, prior to the deposit dewatering—the model should be solved in steady-state conditions
basedFigure
on the 4. average precipitation
Calibration
Calibration and and evaporation
and verification
verification numericaldata,
of numerical
of models
models hydrological
in the
in datamining
the opencast
opencast (flows activity
mining and water
activity levels
area.
area.
in rivers and lakes),
Explanation:
Explanation: t1–t6: and
t1–t6: Stress
Stress hydrogeological
periods; t1:
periods; dataconditions
Natural
t1: Natural (groundwater
conditions (beforelevels
(before and groundwater
dewatering
dewatering operation); t2–t4:
operation); flows).
t2–t4:
Calibration
Dewateringperformed
period
period withunder
with real steady-state
realmonitoring
monitoring data;conditions
data; enables
t5–t6:AAforecast
t5–t6: forecastof of
minethedewatering
mine preliminary
dewatering determination
andand
flooding of of
of the
flooding
post-mining
aquifer recharge void.
as well
the post-mining void. the horizontal and vertical hydraulic conductivity of aquifers.
In case we have data from pumping/aquifer tests or the first period of mine dewatering, a
Numerical
In the to
calibration mining modeling
transient should be
area,conditions
boundary understood
conditions
can be performed as antoiterative
representingobtain process
development
the in which reasonableness
of theinformation
preliminary mine dewatering
on theof
results
system at each
specific should
yield and step should
be specific
assigned. be checked
Additionally,
storage before proceeding
outside area.
for the modeled the miningto the
In case area, next step
of no itsuch [29].
is necessary If the
a data, thetonext previously
update
stepsthe
of
calibrated
boundary model
modeling inconditions does not reflect
to simulate
transient conditions the real
must system
artificially reaction
be basedsealed to the introduced
or relocated
on archival data. After stresses,
rivers the values
and watercourses,
dewatering assumed
new
operation starts,
in the model
constructed
model shouldshould
ditches
verification be re-calibrated
and reservoirs,
proceed in using
new different
water
transient datasets.
intakes, The factors
new taking
conditions, land in need of
developments
into account possible
including
the periods updating
industrial
of mine
include
and the
municipal boundary
waste conditions,
dumps, and aquifer
a changeand ofaquitards,
effective and hydrogeological
infiltration
dewatering. This requires at least one-time data. This enables the model users to improve thedue to a and spatial
lowering or parameters,
increase of
the groundwater estimates
parameter-value table or an additionalinrecharge
determined of aquifers
the steady-state by industrial
calibration as wellwater
as thefrom: Water-based
calibration to the
drilling mud used during drilling activity, damaged sewerage and water systems, and landfills (if
they exist). To quantify an uncertainty in the calibrated model caused by uncertainty in the estimates
of aquifer parameters, stresses, and boundary conditions, a sensitivity analysis must be performed
[28]. As a result, the water balance should be presented for steady-state simulations as well as for
Water 2019, 11, 848 8 of 16

as well as a modification of the role of faults under the influence of deep mine drainage and leftover
rock displacements due to mining activity.
In the mining area, boundary conditions representing development of the mine dewatering system
should be assigned. Additionally, outside the mining area, it is necessary to update the boundary
conditions to simulate artificially sealed or relocated rivers and watercourses, new constructed ditches
and reservoirs, new water intakes, new land developments including industrial and municipal waste
dumps, and a change of effective infiltration due to a lowering or increase of the groundwater table or
an additional recharge of aquifers by industrial water from: Water-based drilling mud used during
drilling activity, damaged sewerage and water systems, and landfills (if they exist). To quantify an
uncertainty in the calibrated model caused by uncertainty in the estimates of aquifer parameters,
stresses, and boundary conditions, a sensitivity analysis must be performed [28]. As a result, the
water balance should be presented for steady-state simulations as well as for each stage of model
verification. Its correctness should be evaluated by selected calibration criteria. The results obtained
during calibration and verification of the model should specify:

• Hydro-structural system and aquifers transmissivity,


• specific yield and storage capacity of aquifers,
• changes in the leakage of water through semi-permeable layers,
• recharge of aquifers and its changes due to fluctuations in the groundwater table,
• sections of watercourses with decreasing or increasing flow.

At the stage of a forecasted simulation, a further updating of certain boundary conditions and
hydrogeological or spatial parameters of the model can be required, which should be properly assigned
to represent new stresses on the model (mine dewatering system development, new intakes, ditches,
and ponds) and parameters representing an open pit area with the extracted deposit, the internal
overburden dump development, or the post-mining excavations.

3.5. Documenting of Modeling Study for the Mining Area


Documenting the results of a modeling study in mining hydrogeology is more extensive compared
to models used for groundwater-resource assessment. They must account for all boundary conditions
and aquifers parameters subject to changes in time. While applying a model, the natural conditions, the
dewatering period, and the post-mining excavations management should be taken into consideration.
The results thus obtained, including the rate of mine water inflow, the hydraulic head in each
modeled layer, the range of the cones of depression for all layers, the groundwater balance, and the
hydrogeological conditions in each stage of mining operations and after its completion—ending with
post-mining area reclamation—should be presented in both descriptive and graphical form for all the
periods assumed. The sensitivity analysis for the model should be presented.

4. Problem of Aquifer Drying/Rewetting and its Representation in the Model


The drying/rewetting problem can be particularly damaging when undertaking groundwater
modeling for mining applications [52]. In the case of confined layers where, due to dewatering, the
thickness of the saturated zone does not change significantly in relation to its total thickness, the
water-bearing layer may only be simulated by a transmissivity parameter. However, for a water-table
aquifer and a confined layer that can be “dried” due to dewatering, it is necessary to specify on a
model their top and bottom. The model may then face the problem of instability (lack of convergence)
associated with the necessity of re-saturation of “dry cells” during the groundwater table rebound. In
addition, due to groundwater table lowering beneath the bottom of a layer, the cells representing this
layer are inactive during a calculation, and its recharge may be impossible, which is often inconsistent
with the adopted conceptual model.
The innovative approach was only proposed as part of the block-centered flow MODFLOW-
SURFACT package (BCF4), where, taking into account all the changes introduced in previous versions,
Water 2019, 11, 848 9 of 16

the pseudo-soil water retention automatically generated during the calculations was added to the
formula for three-dimensional groundwater flow in a variably saturated system [53]. It does not
allow for the appearance of inactive cells in areas where the water table has fallen below the bottom
of the aquifer. The operation of this package consists in calculating, in each of the “dry” cells, the
hydraulic height necessary to start water seepage through the unsaturated zone and not allowing
the cells to be deactivated. Another solution to prevent complete drying of cells was presented by
Doherty [52]. He introduced a modification to the block-centered flow package, so-called the “residual
saturated thickness,” allowing the reduced water conductivity of the aquifer to be maintained even if
the groundwater table falls below the base of the cell. This modification allows leaving the cell active
for groundwater flow.
Aquifer drying/rewetting process has a particular importance in case of deep open pit mines in
which, for safety production, there are necessary dewatering many layers which are above the deposit.
In a consequence of modeling study, the groundwater table on a model is lowering beneath the bottom
of layers and the cells are inactive during a calculation (no groundwater flow). After the exploitation is
ceased, the process of the groundwater table rebound starts, and the cells representing inactive layers
have to be11,
Water 2019, re-activated (re-saturated).
x FOR PEER REVIEW 10 of 17

5. Use of Modeling Methods in Polish Opencast Mines


Bełchatów basins—situated in the central part of Poland—and the Turów basin—situated in the
south-west partgroundwater
In Poland, of Poland. Generally, the floor
flow numerical depth
models of lignite
have seams
been used below
since the terrain The
the mid-1970s. surface varies
modeling
from 40–300
studies m. The of
for simulation thickness
opencastofmine
lignite occurring
dewatering in performed
were one to three seams
using is from 5–60[54]
the HYDRYLIB m,program,
and the
overburden
which thickness
was based on theisfinite
fromdifference
30–200 m. The overburden
method and the FKWH constitutes Quaternary
[55] program, which and Neogene
was based on
formations
the consisting
finite element of silt Currently,
method. and clays (30–75%)
MODFLOW and is
sands (70–25%)
the most [60]. The
popular. Thelignite seams
numerical are flatare
models or
are slightlyfor
performed dipping
sulphurupandto ten
rawdegrees,
materials and they aremines.
opencast sometimes intersected
However, the mostbyextensive
faults. Allgroundwater
deposits are
below
flow the natural
models groundwater
are used table, and
for the existing they
lignite occur most
opencast mine frequently right under
[56,57] (Figures 5 andthe
6)terrain surface.
and proposed
Annual precipitation in the region of lignite
lignite opencast mines [58,59] (Figures 7 and 8). basins varies from 500–700 mm/year, and the average
annual temperature is about +8 °C.
W
ID
AW
IA

KA
B
GRA

ZELÓW
GR
AB
IA
POLAND
WARSZAWA
A
RAKÓWK

WROCŁAW

N PIL
SIA

NIEC

BR
WARTA

BEŁCHATÓW Ó
W KRAKÓW
KA
IECZ

KR SZCZERCÓW
PIL

AS
ŻA
ICA

Ó
W N CI
Ą
KA WID LU
AW
KA
ZB. WAWRZYKOWIZNA
WĘŻNICA

Szczerców Bełchatów
Field Field
LU
CI
ĄŻ

KR PR
NIE
P/Bełchatów
A

CIE AS UD
CZ Ó K
W A
KA

PAJĘCZNO
W
ID
A

A
IC

W
KA
ĘC

DZIAŁOSZYN
PI

KR
SI
A

PRZEDBÓRZ
W 8
AR RADOMSKO
TA

S A
MK
WARTA DO
RA
0 4 8 12km
1 2 3 4 5 210 6

Figure 5.5.The
Figure Therange of the
range of numerical modelmodel
the numerical in the area of the
in the Bełchatów
area of the lignite minelignite
Bełchatów with groundwater
mine with
contours for mining conditions. Explanations: 1—watersheds; 2—cone of depression
groundwater contours for mining conditions. Explanations: 1—watersheds; 2—cone of depression range;
3—groundwater flow direction;
range; 3—groundwater 4—hydrogeological
flow direction; cross-section;
4—hydrogeological 5—model boundary;
cross-section; 5—model6—groundwater
boundary; 6—
level in mining conditions [56].
groundwater level in mining conditions [56].

S C o n e o f d e p r e s s io n r a n g e
N
m n .p .m . B e łc h a tó w
F ie ld

200

150

100
1 2 3 4 5 210 6

Figure 5. The range of the numerical model in the area of the Bełchatów lignite mine with
groundwater contours for mining conditions. Explanations: 1—watersheds; 2—cone of depression
range; 3—groundwater flow direction; 4—hydrogeological cross-section; 5—model boundary; 6—
Water 2019, 11, 848 10 of 16
groundwater level in mining conditions [56].

S C o n e o f d e p r e s s io n r a n g e
N
m n .p .m . B e łc h a tó w
F ie ld

200

150

100

50

0 2 4km

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Figure 6. Hydrogeological cross-section through Bełchatów Opencast Mine. Explanations: 1—fine


Figure 6. Hydrogeological cross-section through Bełchatów Opencast Mine. Explanations: 1—fine
sands; 2—glacial tills; 3—limestones, marls and dolomites; 4—lignite; 5—stratigraphic boundary;
sands; 2—glacial tills; 3—limestones, marls and dolomites; 4—lignite; 5—stratigraphic boundary; 6—
6—faults;
Water faults; 7—screened
2019, 11,7—screened
x FOR intervals of a weeks; 8—ground water level in pre-mining conditions; 9—ground
PEER intervals
REVIEW 11 of 17
of a weeks; 8—ground water level in pre-mining conditions; 9—ground
water level in mining conditions [57].
water level in mining conditions [57].

POLAND
WARSZAWA

WROCŁAW

KRAKÓW

14

A'

A
M OSZYN-GROCHOWISKA
Proposed Open Pit

Note?

LUBST覹

Note?

DRZEWCE

Warta

1
Warta 1
2
3
4
A' A 5
0 1 2 3 4 5 km

Figure 7. Groundwater flow modeling study for the proposed Makoszyn-Grochowiska


˛ open pit in
Figure 7. Groundwater
the Konin flow
lignite basin for modelingconditions.
pre-mining study for the proposed Mąkoszyn-Grochowiska
Explanations: 1—groundwater level in open pit in
pre-mining
the Konin lignite
conditions; basincone
2—actual for pre-mining conditions.
of depression Explanations:
range; 3—model 1—groundwater
boundary; level flow
4—groundwater in pre-mining
direction;
conditions; 2—actual cone of depression range; 3—model
5—hydrogeological cross section; 6—mining areas [59]. boundary; 4—groundwater flow direction;
5—hydrogeological cross section; 6—mining areas [59].
A

A
'

M
i
M
M
M
M
s
M
M
n
-
M
M
M
c
h
M
M
i
s
M
a
M
M
M
M
s
i
M

s
l M
i
M M
a
n ą M
M
h
C
s
M
M
m
.
a
.
s
.
l
.

h M a . g
c M l
ć

M M
ć

i M
M M l J Ł
P N l
1
0 8
0 0

N .
J
Ś
6

Figure 7. Groundwater flow modeling study for the proposed Mąkoszyn-Grochowiska open pit in
the Konin lignite basin for pre-mining conditions. Explanations: 1—groundwater level in pre-mining
conditions; 2—actual cone of depression range; 3—model boundary; 4—groundwater flow direction;
Water 2019, 11, 848 11 of 16
5—hydrogeological cross section; 6—mining areas [59].

A
'
M
i
M

M
M
M
s
M
M
n
-
M
M
M
c
h
M
M
i
s
M
a
M
M
M
M
s
i
M
s
l M
i
M M
a
n ą M
M
h
C
s
M
M
m
.
a
.
s
.
l
.
h a
M M . g
c M l

ć
ć
i M M
M l J Ł
M
P N l
1
0 8 6 4 2
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

N .
J

Ś
Q

N
g

Q
N
g
C
M
-
2 -
4

N
g
0

1
,
0

2
,
0

3
,
0
M
m

C
M
-
1

-
2

-
5
-
3

-
4

-
6

-
7
-
9

-
1
0
-
8

Figure 8. Hydrogeological
Figure cross-section
8. Hydrogeological throughthrough
cross-section Mąkoszyn ˛Grochowiska
Makoszyn deposit. Explanations:
Grochowiska 1—
deposit. Explanations:
fine1—fine
sands; 2—glacial tills; 3—silts; 4—clays; 5—marls and dolomites; 6—lignite;
sands; 2—glacial tills; 3—silts; 4—clays; 5—marls and dolomites; 6—lignite;7—Neogene-
Paleogene-Mesozoic aquifer piezometric
7—Neogene-Paleogene-Mesozoic surface;
aquifer 8—stratigraphic
piezometric boundary; 9—screened
surface; 8—stratigraphic intervals;
boundary; 9—screened
10—fault [59].10—fault [59].
intervals;
Water 2019, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 12 of 17
By the 1990s, the numerical models for the mining industry in Poland mainly solved the problem
of theBy the 1990s,
amount the numerical
of mine models
water inflow and forenvironmental
the mining industryimpactin Poland mainly
assessment solvedby
caused the problem
mine water
of the amount of mine water inflow and environmental impact assessment
drainage. The problem of post-mining excavations flooding had not been extensively addressed sincecaused by mine water
drainage.
there wereThenot problem
many such of post-mining
reservoirs in excavations flooding had
Poland. Presently, the not been extensively
problem addressed since
of filling post-mining voids
therewater
with were isnot many
more such reservoirs
extensively in Poland.
addressed Presently,
for the reasons the problem of the
of estimating filling post-mining
costs of works voids
related
towith waterlignite
flooding is moreopencast
extensively addressed
mines (Figures for9 the
andreasons
10). It of estimating
is foreseen theincosts
that the of works
next years,related to
the total
flooding lignite opencast mines (Figures 9, 10). It is foreseen that in the next years,
volume of flooded post-mining voids in Polish lignite industry will reach more than 3.5 billion cubic the total volume
of flooded
meters post-mining
(Table 1). The most voids in Polish
crucial elementslignite industry will
in modeling reach
studies formore
waterthan 3.5 billion of
management cubic meters
post-mining
(Table 1). The most crucial elements in modeling studies for water management
excavations are: The rate of flooding, restoration of the groundwater table, the impact of the reservoirs of post-mining
onexcavations
groundwater, are:and
Thethe
rate of flooding,
changes restoration
in the water qualityofinthe groundwater
reservoir table, the impact of the
and aquifer.
reservoirs on groundwater, and the changes in the water quality in reservoir and aquifer.
Table 1. Post-mining voids in the Polish lignite industry.
Table 1. Post-mining voids in the Polish lignite industry.
Area Volume
Opencast Mines Deposit
Opencast Deposit Exploitation Number of Voids 1 Area
Number of voids1 (km2 ) (mlnVolume
m3 )
mines exploitation (km2) (mln m3)
Adamów 1964–2018 8 10.6 252
Adamów 1964–2018 8 10.6 252
Konin 1946–2030 10 21.8 664
Konin 1946–2030 10 21.8 664
Bełchatów 1981–2038 2 32.5 2422
Bełchatów
Turów 1981–20381904–2040 2 1 32.5
17.0 12202422
Turów 1904–2040 1
1 17.0 1220
Some after a rehabilitation.
1 Some after a rehabilitation.

Figure9.9.Current
Figure Current and
and proposed
proposed location
location of
of pit
pit lakes
lakes in
inthe
theAdamow
Adamow(left)
(left)and
andthe
theKonin
Koninpost-mining
post-mining
area (right). Explanations: 1—natural lake; 2—river; 3—post-mining area; 4—pit lake [61].
area (right). Explanations: 1—natural lake; 2—river; 3—post-mining area; 4—pit lake [61].
Water 2019, 11, 848 12 of 16
Water 2019, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 13 of 17

BELCHAT覹

Kluki Ludwik體
KLUKI
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Rusiec

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.

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SIEMKOWICE SZCZERC覹 BELCHAT覹 LEKINSKO


Kamiensk
RZ.
NIECI PIT LAKE PIT LAKE
ECZ KAMIENSK
? obnica
Lekinsko A
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Siemkowice IO
EZ PO
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Sulmierzyce GOMUNICE A

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Figure 10. Proposed location of pit lakes in the Belchatow post-mining area with the cone of depression
Figure 10. Proposed location of pit lakes in the Belchatow post-mining area with the cone of
reduction, in case of no additional recharge [57].
depression reduction, in case of no additional recharge [57].
6. Limitations of Modeling Methods
6. Limitations of Modeling Methods
Numerical models used in mining hydrogeology, especially in opencast mining, have certain
Numerical
limitations models usedrelated
and uncertainties in miningto thehydrogeology,
assumed stresses especially in opencast
and parameters in themining,
model. They have include
certain
limitations and uncertainties related to the assumed stresses and
shortcomings and variability in the boundary conditions, hydrogeological and spatial parameters,parameters in the model. They
include shortcomings
groundwater recharge, and miningvariability
schedules, in and
the others.
boundary conditions,
A regional modelhydrogeological
to analyze the and effectspatial
of an
parameters,
open groundwaterlevels
pit on groundwater recharge,
often mining
requiresschedules,
a lot more and others. A to
discretization regional
analyzemodel
the slopeto analyze
stabilitythe
in
effect of an open pit on groundwater levels often requires a lot more discretization
the same pit [62]. The finer nodal spacing is required to define highly curved surfaces. It enables a to analyze the
slope stability
simulation of a in the same
greater pit [62].
accuracy The finer
the decline nodal spacing
in groundwater is required
level to definelevel
and groundwater highly curved
itself near
surfaces.
the slopes,Itwhich
enables a simulation
results in changesofofa geotechnical
greater accuracy the decline
conditions of slopes in ingroundwater
time and space levelas and
the
groundwater
mine develops. level itself near the slopes, which results in changes of geotechnical conditions of slopes
in time
Theand spaceidentification
proper as the mine develops.
of hydraulic parameters, the nature of faults and fissures, as well as
karstic formation phenomena, isofdecisive
The proper identification hydraulic forparameters,
the reliability theof nature
modeling of faults
studies.and Forfissures,
example, as natural
well as
karstic formation phenomena, is decisive for the reliability of modeling
hydraulic barriers, such as faults filled with semi-permeable material or rock formations with low studies. For example, natural
barriers, suchcompared
hydraulic conductivity as faults filled with semi-permeable
to adjacent rock layers, canmaterial
decreaseorthe rock
mineformations
water inflow with and
low
hydraulic conductivity compared to adjacent rock layers, can decrease
reduce the negative environmental impact of dewatering. However, while the deposit is under the mine water inflow and
reduce the negative
dewatering, environmental
new information based on impact of dewatering.
the actual impact of the However, while the
mine drainage deposit
on the is under
groundwater
dewatering,
and surface newwaterinformation
may resultbased in theon the actual
necessity of impact
adjustingof the mine drainage
hydraulic parameters on the of groundwater
aquifers and
and surface water
semi-permeable may in
layers result in the necessity
the model. Moreover, of one
adjusting
shouldhydraulic
be awareparameters
that under of theaquifers and semi-
mine dewatering
permeableparameters
hydraulic layers in the maymodel.
changeMoreover,
in time due oneto should be aware
the activation of a that
new under the mine
groundwater flowdewatering
pathway.
hydraulic parameters may change in time due to the activation of a new
Despite the fundamental importance of recharge in the water balance, it is an element with thegroundwater flow pathway.
Despite
highest the fundamental
uncertainty, importance
since its values of recharge
primarily dependinon thethe
water balance,
accuracy it is anwhen
assumed element with the
calculating
highest
other uncertainty,
elements of thesince
wateritsbalance
values equation.
primarily Though
depend it onisthe
oneaccuracy
of the mostassumed
importantwhencomponents
calculating
other elements of the water balance equation. Though it is one of the most
in groundwater studies, recharge is also one of the least understood, largely because recharge rates important components in
groundwater
vary widely instudies,
space and recharge
time, andis also oneare
rates ofdifficult
the leasttounderstood,
directly measure largely[38].
because
Changesrecharge
in therates vary
recharge
widely
may in space
be the and time,
consequence and rates
of many arewhich
factors difficult
wereto not
directly measure
accurately [38]. Changes
estimated in theinside
or identified recharge
and
may be the consequence of many factors which were not accurately
outside the mining area. These may include: Changes of recharge caused by groundwater fluctuation estimated or identified inside
and outside the mining area. These may include: Changes of recharge caused by groundwater
fluctuation and land management, stream-aquifer interaction, unidentified leakage of surface waters
Water 2019, 11, 848 13 of 16

and land management, stream-aquifer interaction, unidentified leakage of surface waters into aquifers,
water losses from the water supply and sewage disposal system, and industrial waters recharging the
aquifers. Moreover, mining and power generation activity, including the construction of large open
pits and the overburden of dumping areas, as well as the existence of powerful heat and steam emitters
at nearby power plants, may lead to local climate variations, influencing recharge from precipitation.
Assuming the amount of aquifer recharge is based on average multiannual precipitation does
not account for the cyclic deviations and trends resulting from climate variability. For instance,
low precipitation may lead to a fall of the groundwater table below a level referred to as the
evapotranspiration extinction depth, which causes an increase in effective infiltration. On the other
hand, a change in the difference between potential evaporation and the precipitation affects the rate at
which post-mining reservoirs are filled with water.
Several years after the modeling study is completed, a post audit is conducted. Its goal is to
determine whether the prediction was correct, based on new field data. Most often, errors in model
forecasts are not the result of imperfections in programs, but mistakes made by modelers. In general,
a post-audit studies found that errors in model predictions were caused by errors in the conceptual
model of the hydrogeological system [28] and a failure to use appropriate values for assumed future
stresses such as recharge and pumping rates [63,64]. In a modeling study for the simulation of opencast
mine activity, the different boundary conditions which are not compatible with the actual conditions
are the most serious problem. Due to changes in the schedules of mining activities or rehabilitation
of post-mining excavations, the input data used in the model should be verified and updated with
reference to the most recent recommendations and assumptions.

7. Conclusions
Even though groundwater flow models used in mining hydrogeology have numerous limitations
related to the uncertainty of the parameters and boundary conditions, they still provide the most
comprehensive information concerning the mine dewatering system and its environmental impact at
the time when they are developed. However, they will always require periodical verification based
on new information on the actual response of the aquifer system to the mine drainage and the actual
climate conditions, as well as up-to-date schedules of deposit extraction and mine closure. Numerical
modeling used in mining hydrogeology needs a lot of experience, not only in hydrogeology but also in
mining operations and other activities realted to mining industry in the neighboring areas.

Funding: This research received no external funding.


Conflicts of Interest: The author declares no conflict of interest.

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