Western Australia Chapter

From a 20kg Sample to a 100 million tonne land form: the art of tailings engineering

Alistair Cadden

Few, if any, engineers start their professional careers with the intention of specializing in tailings engineering. In fact, few, if any, will have heard the word tailings mentioned during their university careers. And yet tailings storage facilities can be some of the most hazardous structures we build, using difficult materials in harsh terrain and climatic conditions, while spending the absolute minimum on materials characterization, engineering and construction.Construction itself can last decades with materials and geometry changing due economic circumstances or change of ownership. Once in place the tailings are usually there in perpetuity. This presentation will take you through the life cycle of a tailings storage facility, from a 20kg sample to a 100 million tonne landform, highlighting the idiosyncrasies of tailings engineering, giving a number of case histories and explaining why we consider it an art as much as a science.

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