15 February 2021

Tailings Management for Engineers talk highlights systems approach

In a presentation for Colorado School of Mines, USA, Andrew Witte of KCB provides an overview of issues associated with tailings, with a focus on geotechnical aspects and a reminder about using a systems approach to managing tailings.

Mount Polley
© NASA Earth Observatory

Witte discusses the best available technology (BAT) conclusions from the Mount Polley, Canada, tailings dam failure investigation. An earthen dam at the mine in British Columbia breached on 4 August 2014, sending contaminated water into nearby lakes. Wastewater and metal-laden sand spilled from a retention basin and triggered a water-use ban in nearby towns

The report concluded that any steps to reduce water in a tailings storage facility will help improve safety. However, this exposes the tension between geotechnical goals and geochemical goals. There is still work to be done in this area.

There is some discussion on the usefulness of segregating high sulphide, potentially acid generating (PAG) tailings from non-acid generating tailings, which is commonly practiced in Canada and some other parts of the world.