Responsible tailings disposal at Minnesota Taconite Mines

CIM Montreal 2015
Philip B Solseng (Barr Engineering Co.)
Responsible tailings disposal at Minnesota taconite mines
P. B. Solseng, Barr Engineering Co., USA
T. W. Skoglund, Barr Engineering Co., USA
Tailings disposal has been taking place in Minnesota’s iron range for over 100 years, first with the wash plants from the high grade ore and since the 1950’s, with taconite. Taconite is about 35 percent iron so about 65 percent of the mined ore is tailings. This paper discusses the practices currently used for tailings disposal in Minnesota. It addresses the features of tailings disposal such as the characteristics of taconite tailings, tailings dam design/construction practices, tailings transportation and deposition, tailings basin operations and maintenance, tailings basin water management, tailings basin reclamation and emerging methods/technologies. Although each of these features are specialized disciplines, they are highly interdependent. This paper addresses each of these interdisciplinary specialities in the context of overall responsible tailings disposal. The lessons learned from over 60 years of taconite tailings disposal will be presented and the emerging technologies for the future to maintain responsible tailings disposal will be discussed.
Keywords: dam design, tailings, transportation tailings, reclamation
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