Benchmark problems for reactive transport modeling of the generation and attenuation of acid rock drainage

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  • UBC - The University of British Columbia
  • UB - University of Bern
  • LBNL - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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Acid rock drainage (ARD) is a problem of international relevance with substantial environmental and economic implications. Reactive transport modeling has proven a powerful tool for the process-based assessment of metal release and attenuation at ARD sites. Although a variety of models has been used to investigate ARD, a systematic model intercomparison has not been conducted to date. This contribution presents such a model intercomparison involving three synthetic benchmark problems designed to evaluate model results for the most relevant processes at ARD sites. The first benchmark (ARD-B1) focuses on the oxidation of sulfide minerals in an unsaturated tailing impoundment, affected by the ingress of atmospheric oxygen. ARD-B2 extends the first problem to include pH buffering by primary mineral dissolution and secondary mineral precipitation. The third problem (ARD-B3) in addition considers the kinetic and pH-dependent dissolution of silicate minerals under low pH conditions. The set of benchmarks was solved by four reactive transport codes, namely CrunchFlow, Flotran, HP1, and MIN3P. The results comparison focused on spatial profiles of dissolved concentrations, pH and pE, pore gas composition, and mineral assemblages. In addition, results of transient profiles for selected elements and cumulative mass loadings were considered in the intercomparison. Despite substantial differences in model formulations, very good agreement was obtained between the various codes. Residual deviations between the results are analyzed and discussed in terms of their implications for capturing system evolution and long-term mass loading predictions.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599-611
JournalComputational Geosciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • reactive transport modeling, model intercomparison, benchmark, acid rock drainage

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