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Jiri Herza and John Phillips
The design of dams for mining projects requires processes and technology that are unfamiliar to many mine owners and managers. Dam designers rely on ANCOLD assessments of Consequence Category, commonly leading to a High rating for mining dams due to a combination of potential loss of life, impact on environment and damage to assets such as mine voids, process plants, workshops, offices, roads, railways etc.Learn more
From this High Consequence Category the relevant annual exceedance probabilities for design parameters and loading conditions such as earthquakes and floods are selected.
Mining companies have sophisticated methods available for assessing risk, yet for their assets they often adopt an order of magnitude lower security for earthquake and floods even though the consequences in terms of lives at risk and impact on project are similar.
The discrepancies in the design standards lead to situations where extreme dam loads are adopted to prevent damage and loss of life in assets that theoretically would have already collapsed under much lower loads.
One difference may be that some mining dams exist in an environment which is controlled by a single entity. Unlike other dams, failure of these mining dams would therefore impact only individuals and assets which fall under the responsibility of the same entity.
This paper discusses the discrepancies between the design of mining dams and the design of other mine infrastructure. The paper considers the impact of discrepancies on the overall risk to the mine and compares the degree of protection offered by a factor of safety and the influence of reliability of design input parameters, alternate load paths and design redundancy.
Keywords: Dams, tailings dams, mining, acceptable risk, factors of safety
David Hilyard, William Ziegler, Heather Middleton
New South Wales has a significant number of dams, including major water supply dams, located over or near mines. Mining near dams imposes dam safety risks including: mine subsidence, mine blast vibration, presence of mine personnel downstream, rapid changes in consequence during mining, and loss of stored waters. The NSW Dams Safety Committee(DSC) regulates mining near dams, using risk assessment to review applications to mine near dams. A structured approach allows rational, evidence-based decision making by stepping through a procedure involving: initial consultations, screening risk assessment, evaluation of technical arguments, risk assessment, and development of risk management strategies. The risk assessment for dam walls develops acceptance criteria, reviews 19 possible risks to dam walls, and site-specific hazards. For potential for loss of stored waters, four possible groups of flow paths from storage to underground mine are reviewed; flows are evaluated with Monte Carlo simulation in terms of tolerable loss. Risks are assessed from a dam engineering viewpoint, which may be more conservative than the perception of risk in the mining industry, considering both tolerable risks and operational time frames. Case studies include: a tailings dam 100 m upstream of an active open cut and underground portal was undermined by longwall mining, with about 1.5 m subsidence of parts of the embankment as each of four longwall panels was extracted; longwall mining beneath a major Sydney water reservoir, with no observed impact on the stored waters; and open cut mining immediately downstream of a mine water dam. Risk-based methodology has provided the DSC with increased confidence in reviewing applications to mine near dams.Learn more
Keywords: Mining, dams, risk assessment, New South Wales, Dam Safety Committee
There are many international guidelines, state regulations and technical standards relating to tailings disposal. In addition, the larger mining companies have their own in-house standards and design rules with competent personnel in charge of their operations. Sound embankment design methods can be used by most designers familiar with earth dam design.
The paper gives a listing of many of the current sources of information and guidance available, with some comments by the author on their perceived relevance to the Australian mining industry. Despite the availability of a number of other guidelines at the time, the need for Australian Guidelines was recognised in the mid 1990s and the reasons for the development of the 1999 ANCOLD Tailings Guideline are explained.
Perhaps the best recognition of the need for the original ANCOLD guideline is the degree to which it has been adopted since publishing the 1999 edition. It is in almost universal use in the Australian mining industry and is recognised as providing appropriate and acceptable standards by all state governments. Its use is recognised and sometimes even specified by a number of neighbouring countries and it is also recognised internationally when used by Australian companies with overseas operations.
The reasons for this wide acceptance are described. However, there are some areas where more recent developments have led to the Guidelines becoming dated and improved international guidelines have been published since 1999. The need for a revised ANCOLD guideline and its elevance is then described.
Keywords: Tailings, dams, mining, guidelinesLearn more