Tailings Management

Tailings Facility

Tailings are one of the key waste materials produced at a mine site. They require storage, usually in a dedicated facility, that is physically stable and can store the tailings in such a way that they are relatively chemically stable minimising any impacts on water quality. The desired outcome is a cost-effective, semi-permanent / permanent, maintenance free facility with no long-term environmental risks, that can be successfully transitioned to closure.

At Earth Systems we understand that there can be broad range of potential risks associated with the operation and closure of tailings storage facilities (TSF). We can assess any potential risks, whether they be related to the physical structure of the TSF or water quality issues associated to the chemical instability of the tailings or process water additions, and provide appropriate management strategies and assist with their implementation. Our aim is to assist clients in identifying and managing risks before they become issues impacting on operations, the local community or environment.

Earth Systems has been providing expertise in Tailings Management to the mining sector for over 25 years, with our expertise recognised by our involvement in the following;

  • Guidelines for the Management of Tailings and Mine Dams in Lao PDR (2016).
  • Contributed to the Australian Government’s Leading Practice Sustainable Development Program for the Mining Industry Handbook – Tailings Management (2016).
  • Contributed to the Australian Government’s Leading Practice Sustainable Development Program for the Mining Industry Handbook – Preventing Acid and Metalliferous Drainage (2016).

Life of Mine Tailings Management

Earth Systems can assist with complete life of mine tailings management, aiding with;

  • Planning and Approval
    • Baseline and impact assessments
    • Initial design and proposed extensions
    • Develop guidelines for tailings and mine dam management, incorporating both physical and geochemical stability concern
    • Location selection
    • Management / monitoring strategies
    • Tailings risk assessment
    • Planning for closure – simple and cost-effective transition from operations to closure
  • Operations / Mine Expansion
    • Ongoing construction / lifts / expansions
    • Water management – reuse options to supplement mine or process water
    • Water treatment – reuse and controlled discharge to manage safe water storage levels and/or provide storm surge allowance
    • Pollution minimisation (dissolved metals, cyanide, odour, salinity)
    • Seepage and groundwater monitoring
    • Regulatory reporting associated with ongoing operations and expansion programs
  • Closure / Post-Closure
    • Transition from operations to closure
    • Tailings cover design and assessment (oxygen consuming covers, enhanced moisture retention covers, air retardation covers, de-sulfurisation)
    • Structural modification of containment structure and other structural elements
    • Management and disposal strategies – TSF decommissioning and tailings relocation (options for in-pit and underground tailings disposal and co-disposal)
    • Changes to water management and treatment
  • Derelict / Historical Tailings Facilities
    • Geochemical assessment
    • Pollution minimisation strategies
    • Water quality management and treatment options (active and passive treatment)

Earth Systems’ has worked with Clients at mine sites globally developing management strategies for saturated and unsaturated tailings dams and tailings storage facilities. We can offer expertise in:

  • Geochemical Assessment of Tailings
    • Routine static and kinetic geochemical testwork
    • Specialist kinetic testwork programs – Oxygen Consumption Test (OxCon) / Oxygen Penetration Tests (OPT)
    • Potential to generate acid and/or metalliferous and saline drainage
    • Sulfide oxidation/reaction rates
    • Sulfide reactivity as a function of moisture
    • Pollution generation rates
    • Duration of pollution
    • Lag time before onset of pollution
    • Key controls on pollution generation
  • Tailings Water Quality and Water Quality Management
    • Surface and groundwater
    • Tailings pore water
    • Supernatant water
    • Process water
    • Dissolved metals, cyanide, odour (CH4 / H2S / VOSC) and salinity management
    • Water treatment solutions (emergency discharge, capacity management, re-use)
    • Water quality monitoring and reporting
    • Water and acidity balances
    • Changes in tailings and process water chemistry
    • Indicative leachate chemistry
    • Predictive water quality and treatment modelling
  • Tailings Storgae Facility Design
    • Structural integrity
    • Embankment stability
    • Seepage
    • Stability implications of multi-stage rises
    • Storage capacity & operating levels
    • Geochemical assessment and suitability of potential embankment & construction materials
    • Cover designs – oxygen consuming covers, enhanced moisture retention covers, air retardation covers
    • Closure and rehabilitation – in-situ closure, tailings relocation options

For additional information on Earth Systems’ water treatment capabilities visit earthsystemswater.com

Contact Earth Systems for further information on our Tailings Management capabilities.

Tailings Dam
Location of Tailings Samples
Tailings dam 2