Mine Tailings Facilities – Full Life Cycle: Integrating Closure into Design and Operations

CIM Vancouver 2016
Mr Cecil Urlich (Vice President, Mining Services Leader - AECOM )
Significant cost savings can be achieved by integrating the full life cycle of a tailings facility into each stage of development instead of focusing on a current stage in isolation. This is especially important because tailings facilities are unique and unlike water reservoirs: they permanently store tailings solids and water (liability) instead of holding water for beneficial use (asset); design and construction continue while tailings levels rise and codes, regulations and technologies change; tailings and disposal methods can be used as dam fill; and tailings require storage and environmental controls long after mines stop operating and close.

However, some tailings dams have failed. The failures are typically found to be tied to poor design, construction and operations practices that provide lessons for the design, construction and operation of safe dams. Yet, while the diligence in the industry increases, and safety improves, failures continue to occur, culminating in the recent failures in Canada and Brazil.
This presentation describes and shows aspects of tailings facilities from siting and planning to design and construction, operations and maintenance, and closure and post-closure, along with key elements that influence costs and safety over a full life cycle from cradle to grave. And with emphasis to continually integrate all these phases.

The presentation message is that safer dams along with cost savings are achievable by integrating the full life cycle of a tailings facility into each stage of its development instead of just focusing on a current stage in isolation. This integration coupled with the key element considerations influence costs and safety over the full life cycle of tailings dams that need to stay here forever.

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