2011 – Tailings Storage, Current and Future Trends

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.

 Tailings Storage, Current and Future Trends


Buy this resource