Tailings handling and storage techniques
About This Site - Its Purpose and Goals
This website is one of two websites that were developed alongside a PhD thesis submitted at the University of Leeds in 2006 by Jon Engels. The thesis entitled, 'An Expert Management System for Surface Tailings Storage' has been built on the industrial requirements to reduce the associated risks of surface tailings storage. In the thesis the fundamentals of tailings management are discussed as well as the necessity for training and competency testing of tailings related personnel. The research has developed a systematic tailings management system that can be established at any mine site to enhance the consistency of day to day management, reduce risk and increase safety. Accompanying the thesis is an interactive online database that is designed to increase awareness of safe storage practices. This database compliments the managerial components of the thesis by ensuring that the tailings personnel are confident and can implement a tailings management system effectively. The free online training resource, known as Tailpro Resource, is located at www.tailpro.com/resource .
In summary, the research provides a novel approach to improving tailings management and provides an interactive training tool focused on increasing a user’s ability, awareness and competency on a wide range of tailings storage scenarios. This online tool is supported by a thesis that identifies the fundamentals of today’s tailings storage practices, as well as the challenges and managerial requirements to reduce operational risk.
Tailings.info has been a portal for industry and the public since 2002 to contribute information and research into tailings storage practices. The site also increases public awareness with respect to the modern day handling and storage of tailings. I'd like to thank everyone who has contributed over the years both to this site and the research carried out at the University of Leeds. Thanks also to all the people who have allowed me to visit their operations over the years. In total over 140 tailings facilities were visited and researched for the final thesis.
Due to the number of daily visitors that both the tailings.info and tailpro.com websites receive (which is still growing) and the feedback received primarily from industry, it was decided in 2008 to maintain both the websites as a 100% free resource.
Tailings.info - Introduction
The mineral industry is a worldwide business which in many countries accounts for a large proportion of their Gross National Product (GNP) (Ritcey 1989). The specific location of the industry is entirely dependent on the position of metal and mineral deposits in the earths crust. It is not unusual to find a mining operation in some of the most inhospitable parts of the globe.
The extraction of metals and minerals creates many environmental problems and hazards both during and after an operation has ceased. To exploit an economic ore body the environment has to be disturbed. Surface mining generally creates more environmental damage than underground mining due to the exploitation of usually lower grade deposits. Broken ore can be moved at a lower cost which increases environmental impacts as large open voids (pits) are created.
The valuable mineral (concentrate) is locked in the in-situ uneconomic rock (known as waste or gangue). The feasible ratio of concentrate to gangue extracted depends entirely on the current metal/mineral prices and the current technology available to mine and process the extracted rock efficiently. Exploitation of low grade ores is common in the mining industry and creates mineral processing and waste storage challenges. In gold mining, typical grade values of grams/tonne are feasible to extract and process. The copper and similar metal industries typically extract ores less than a few percent metal (Vick 1990).
The processing plant uses mechanical and chemical techniques to separate the concentrate and the gangue. The most common concentrate extraction techniques are flotation and leaching that have greatly increased the ability to process low grade ore bodies. The waste ground rock and the spent processing water and reagents from the plant are known as tailings. The word tailings is sometimes applied to include coarse mine waste. For this website the term tailings refers to the slurry waste output from the processing plant.
The properties of tailings are dependent on the ore body being mined, the grinding and processing circuits, the reagent properties and the thickening process prior to disposal. For mines with similar operating parameters the tailings properties can still vary as processing plants never operate identically to one another. Tailings can be disposed of and stored in a variety of different methods. The most conventional worldwide is a surface impoundment which sometimes incorporates individual cells (paddocks).