David Brett, Robert Longey, Jiri Herza
The independent expert review panel for the Mount Polley Tailings Storage Facility failure came out strongly recommending changes to the technology of tailings dams in British Columbia (and by inference, world-wide). The Panel had examined the historical risk profile of tailings dams in British Columbia and recommended, amongst other things, that best available technology (BAT) be adopted for tailings disposal. Examples of BAT, described by the panel, included “dry-stacking” of filtered, unsaturated, compacted tailings and reduction in the use of water covers in a closure setting. The recommended technologies would require a major shift in current practice and raises many questions, such as:
– Are these recommendations appropriate in Australia?
– Does this signal the end of the tailings dams as we know them?
– Do the current Australian National Committee on Large Dams Guidelines (ANCOLD) apply to these new BAT technologies?
– If not, is there a role for ANCOLD in setting standards for the future?
This paper discusses the Mt Polley tailings dam failure and searches for answers to these questions. In particular, this paper reviews the background to “dry-stacking’, to explore the implications for the Australian mining industry.
Keywords: Tailings Dam, Dry Stacking, Best Available Technology
Jason Fowler, Robert Wark
Tropical Forestry Services (TFS) currently (2015) leases Arthur Creek Dam from the West Australian state government and utilises the water source to drip irrigate its Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) plantation. Arthur Creek Dam is located approximately 70 km south west of Kununurra in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. TFS grows and processes the sandalwood to produce oil that is used extensively in the global fragrance perfume market. TFS took over the lease of the 26 m high zoned earth core and rock fill dam in 2007 and has systematically carried out remedial works to the structure to lower the f-N curve below the ANCOLD “Limit of Tolerability” and to well within the ALARP zone. This paper describes the proactive risk management approach TFS has undertaken to address dam safety issues. It also specifically describes the most recent management issue, being the outlet pipe refurbishment.
A number of dam safety issues were identified during the initial surveillance and subsequent annual surveillance inspections. Issues include insufficient spillway capacity, seepage from the right abutment and deterioration of the steel outlet pipe. The remedial works to the outlet pipe were completed in late 2014 and involved close collaboration between TFS, the contractor and the designer. The outlet pipe re-sleeving operation was complex as the dam had to remain in operation and the water level could not be artificially lowered. In addition, the original outlet pipe was asymmetrical along both the vertical and horizontal axes, close to the bulkhead gate structure. Contingency measures were employed to enable the dam to remain in operation with 3 DN 400 HDPE siphon pipes installed.
The completion of the refurbishment of the outlet pipe by sleeving the pipe reduced the risk posed by this structure by an order of magnitude. Planned future risk reduction measures include the treatment of seepage within the upper right abutment and rebuilding the crest. These actions will further reduce the risk of dam failure through piping and overtopping of the dam crest.
Keywords: risk, ALARP, outlet pipe, re-sleeving.
Thomas Vasconi, Glen Fergus
Abstract: This paper describes the design of an 80 m-high stepped chute spillway, in gabion material, that will be constructed on a tailings storage facility dam of a mine in South East Asia. This dam, constituted of two cells, will be raised progressively via a series of intermediate crest elevations as mining proceeds, and each lift will be equipped with an operational spillway. The design of such spillways was challenging since it had to integrate local topography configuration, dam design, water balance, wall raise sequence and structure interdependency parameters. The design included flood routing, spillway sizing, stepped spillway design, followed by hydraulic and civil/geotechnical computations. Challenging design aspects included optimizing the stepped spillway structure costs in light of the structure’s short service (estimated to be less than 5 years), and ensuring the stability component. The design incorporates an innovative solution which allows reduction in the rockfill quantity of up to 40% with associated cost benefits, and sustainability in terms of material usage. The lessons learnt in applying this innovative design are useful for other sites requiring adaptive construction and short service life spillways.
Keywords: tailings dam, stepped spillway, hydrology, hydraulics, mine water management, gabions.
Mark Stephen Rynhoud, David Johns and Len Murray
The Hamata tailings storage facility at the Hidden Valley mine is being constructed in a remote, high rainfall, tropical environment in a mountainous region of Papua New Guinea. Implementation of the design hasrequired adapting the design in response to various challenges encountered on the site during the ongoing construction period, based on observations by the designers and site monitoring data which is continuously collected and compared against design assumptions. This paper describes some of the design and construction modifications which have been implemented since construction of the tailings facility started and provides a case history of some of the challenges facing designers and construction crews when mining in remote, tropical conditions.
Dr. Mark Locke, Jiri Herza
Gördes Dam is a nickel and cobalt mine tailings dam situated in a seismically active zone in Manisa Province, Western Turkey. The dam is a conventional cross valley earthfill structure with a fully lined storage basin. The starter embankment with a maximum height of 50 m will be raised in downstream lifts to an ultimate height of 90 m. The total storage capacity is 19 million m3. Construction of the starter embankment is planned to commence in late 2012 and the dam will be commissioned in June 2013.
The tailings will be discharged from the dam crest and return water will be collected by a floating decant pump at the opposite site of the storage. Decant water has high calcium sulphate levels and will require treatment before re-use in the plant or release. The tailings contain about 33 % of solids and are classified as high plasticity silts and clays with more than 90 % of particles passing the 0.075 mm sieve.
The dam is founded on a complex formation of altered sedimentary and metamorphic rocks including mudstones, siltstones, limestones and serpentines. The mudstone blocks, the predominant foundation materials, are juxtaposed with siltstones and serpentines via a complex arrangement of faults. Where exposed, the mudstones are highly to completely weathered with a well-developed structure of smooth bedding surfaces leading to anisotropic strength characteristics. Several landslides, likely associated with the anisotropic character of the mudstones, were identified within the area including a significant landslide under the upstream shoulder of the dam.
Mining development in Turkey has a complex legislative environment. There is also standard practice which is not legislated but expected, this can be considerably different to normal design practice in Australia. The Turkish legislation is based on waste management guidelines and may be more appropriate to landfills than large tailings storages. The legislation is very prescriptive in some aspects and silent in others, with little consideration of risk or consequence based design.
This paper discusses the design difficulties associated with the challenging foundation conditions, which have been magnified by the requirements and limitations embedded in the approval documentation and the legislative environment in Turkey. It will also address some of the key differences between the design philosophy in Australia and in Turkey with a focus on the major risk elements of the design.
Keywords: Tailings, Turkey, Liner, HDPE, Nickel laterite