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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, ANCOLDLearn more
Richard R. Davidson, Joergen Pilzand Bruce Brown
Recent earthquakes in Chile, New Zealand and Japan have created a new focus on the safe design of tailings dams in seismic regions of the world. Building sand and rockfill embankments to sustain large ground motions and provide crucial drainage of excess pore pressures remain daunting challenges at each site. Are conventional hydraulic deposition practices still viable? What new technologies can be considered? Addressing seismic stability of existing upstream method tailings dams whether currently in operation or closed is stretching our seismic geotechnical engineering profession to its limits of understanding of behaviour. Creating a safe, secure environmental storage must also be integrated with the geotechnical and hydrologic concerns. Is there a viable risk context to consider these competing issues? This paper will raise these issues within the international context and suggest a prudent path forward.Learn more
Bruce Brown, Mark Coghill
Tailings management practices have evolved significantly over the last 30 to 40 years with emphasis on long term geotechnical and geochemical stability to meet community expectations and company liabilities. The main drivers have been environmental protection both during operations and post closure, public safety and water conservation. Mining companies have become aware of the significant risks resulting from the operation of tailings facilities with a number of high profile failures occurring in recent times. The common practice of building a containment structure and depositing tailings as unthickened slurry is being challenged and tested against alternative tailings treatment technologies. These include high rate thickening, paste thickening and filtration. The potential benefits of these technologies include significant reduction in process water losses, reduced design duties for the confinement structures and improved conditions for closure. Notwithstanding these potential benefits, very few facilities have implemented the new technologies due to economic constraints imposed by the evaluation methods used by the mining industry. This paper summarises the available tailings treatment technologies and the resulting implications for tailings facility design. It reviews the benefits and critiques the economic evaluation method currently in use and recommends that the industry changes its evaluation methodology to drive future trends.