Mining contractor Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) has published an article on its website detailing the best practices to sustainably dispose of tailings at mine sites and processing plants.
The article was based on a paper delivered at the enviromine2009 international forum in Chile in September.
According to the article, tailings disposal is considered a main pollution concern for the mining industry.
“The article summarises best practices and introduces new thinking around emerging technologies that may prompt sustainable solutions,” the company said.
“It also provides a road map for mine operators to manage the environmental impact associated with their operations.”
Mechanical and chemical processes are used to extract the desired product from the run of the mine ore and produce a waste stream known as tailings.
This waste consists of a mix of ground rock and process effluents and is discharged as slurry to a final storage area known as a Tailings Storage Facility.
“In recent times, the growing emphasis on ensuring sustainable outcomes from mining has resulted in the development of mine closure plans, which consider how these facilities will be decommissioned and closed after mining ceases,” SKM said.
“The mine closure planning usually involves a combination of making the site safe, stable and reusable, while ensuring the closure has no adverse environmental, social or economic impacts.”
Closure can be challenging because the tailings pose a threat to groundwater quality and the health of workers and nearby communities if there is a leak.
“Rehabilitation is also prohibitively expensive, especially if cash-flow is limited,” the company said.
The article can be found at here.