TAILINGS DAM ENGINEERING - AN OVERVIEW OF ITS EVOLUTION, CURRENT PRACTICE AND NEW CHALLENGES

CIM MineSpace 2001
Earle J. Klohn, W.D. Liam Finn,
Abstract Tailings dams are critically important elements in the management of mine tailings for modern mines of large production capacity. They are permanent hydraulic structures used to contain a large volume of semi-fluid tailings and supernatant water. As tailings dams grow in physical size, their impact on public safety and environment also increases in severity. Over the last three decades, tailings dam engineering has evolved from largely "trial-and-error" methods to a mature, multi-disciplinary engineering endeavour.
This paper first presents an overview of this evolution, which involves learning from past failures and applying sound engineering principles from a variety of disciplines related to dam and environmental engineering. It then reviews the current practice of design, construction, operation and decommissioning of tailings dams. Key factors affecting the dam stability and integrity are highlighted. Finally, the paper reviews some of the recent trends that lead to new challenges to the mining industry. These challenges include: coping with heightened public concern about dam safety; balancing potential conflict between seismic and environmental requirements; and addressing issues introduced by globalization of the mining industry. Institutional responses and technological tools available to meet these challenges are also outlined.
Keywords: Tailings Dam, Failure, Current Practice, Environment Protection, Engineering, Overview, Design, New Challenges, Rehabilitation, Dam Safety
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