2017 – Tailings Dam Failures – Lessons Learned and Some Recommendations

Hongyu Li

Although the total tailings dam failure frequency peaked in 1960s through 1980s, the failure rate of significant tailings dams has not dropped. The significant tailings dam failures the mining industry experienced in the recent history include: Merriespruit, South Africa, 1994; Los Frails, Spain, 1998; Kolontár, Hungry, 2010; Mount Polley, Canada, 2014; and Samarco, Brazil, 2015. The dam failures may be due to inadequate design, poor construction and inappropriate operations.This paper discusses the lessons learned and some recommendations and good practices to reduce the tailings dam failure risks. It addresses existing issues and provides some recommendations in risk based design, water management-integrity of facilities and water balance modelling, loading rates, tailings farming, adequate governance and roles and responsibilities of designers and nominated engineer.

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