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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717


CHRYSS, A. et al. Towards an integrated approach to tailings management. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2012, vol.112, n.11, suppl., pp. 965-969. ISSN 2411-9717.

Tailings management aims to dispose of tailings at the minimum cost consistent with meeting or exceeding imposed standards, including legislative obligations. This simple business objective requires managing the tailings storage facility (TSF) risks associated with surface water, groundwater, dust, sustainable closure, and potential catastrophic failure. The individual nature of every orebody and specific site topography ensures that no 'one size fits all. It has been suggested that paste and thickened tailings (P&TT) provides the ability to tailor the production and transportation of tailings to suit the deposition site, rather than the traditional approach of accepting that the deposition site has to accommodate tailings of high variability. While the traditional approach can be made to work, it is directly linked to the catastrophic failures of tailings impoundments, where large volumes of decant water have triggered failures due to overtopping, piping or slope instability, or saturated tailings have simply liquefied. P&TT offers an ability to mitigate these risks, and when implemented into new projects with variable tailings streams there are significant benefits to be realized. This paper identifies the interdependencies between the various tailings disposal processes, such as thickening, pumping, and deposition. It demonstrates that there are benefits in taking a more integrated approach to the design and operation of tailings disposal facilities. A collaborative industry project to tackle this challenge is described.

Keywords : tailings management; paste and thickened tailings; risk mitigation..

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