2009 – Training of Operators = Tailings Dam Safety

Alice Lecocq, David Brett, Mike Rankin

Tailings Dams class amongst the world’s largest man made structures. They are interactive structures that evolve over time, with tailings discharge, water management, embankment raising and finally closure and abandonment. Understanding of the design, the impact of operations and regular, committed surveillance is essential to ensure the safety and performance of a tailings dam. Dam Safety Management Plans should be developed to optimise these parameters. These plans should include Operation, Maintenance and Surveillance (OMS) manuals, emergency response plans and monitoring databases. They should be managed by the mine management and implemented by the operations personnel.

The tailings dam operators are the key to a successful dam safety management program. It is imperative that the tailings dam management and operators appreciate the risks inherent with the facility, their role and their responsibilities. They also need to have an appropriate understanding of the tailings dam design features, failure modes and safety triggers. With training it is expected that personnel will be better able to recognise and act on safety issues arising.

The paper presents case histories of tailings dam failures due to poor operation and management and outlines the operational requirements and risks inherent with tailings dams. The paper discusses the training approach and criteria to be adopted, and describes a training course developed by the authors for mine management and operators. The paper examines the feedback collected from the courses held at several mines. A model to successfully implement a surveillance program with the involvement and leadership of the operators is proposed.

Keywords: TSF failures, surveillance program, OMS manuals, training of personnel.

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