2009 – ANCOLD Guidelines on Planning, Design and Operation of Tailings Dams- Report on Progress of Review and Update

David Brett, Bruce Brown, Imran Gillani, David Williams

This paper reports the direction of a current review of the 1999 ANCOLD Guidelines on Design, Construction and Operation of Tailings Dams. A sub-committee has been formed and has determined that the majority of the current guidelines need only minor editing but that additional attention is required to the concepts of risk and design for closure.

Major mining companies recognise that effective operation and closure of their tailings facilities are fundamental to their continued business from financial and political aspects. Risk needs to be managed throughout the life cycle of a TSF through planning, design, operation, closure and post-closure. Various methods are used to assess the “consequence category” of a TSF. This then determines design and operational criteria. Risks are identified and controls developed to limit these to acceptable levels.

The involvement in the sub-committee of representatives of the mining industry gives an industry perspective to this issue. This includes determination of acceptable risk levels and how to manage operations to achieve them.

The current ANCOLD Guidelines are very limited in terms of guidance for closure and possible abandonment of TSFs. However this area is perhaps the most critical from an economic and environmental perspective. The issues to be faced at closure and post-closure should be considered at the planning and design phases. The paper outlines some of the post closure cases that might need to be considered in design.

Keywords: guidelines, tailings dams, ANCOLD

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