Mine Tailings Management: An overview

Dr. Behrooz Ghahreman-Nejad and Keith Seddon

Management of mine tailings is a vital component of any mining operation.

Its importance is often overlooked (until something goes wrong) as there are no direct financial benefits in tailings disposal for the mine operator. Poor design and management of tailings storage facilities have been responsible for many incidents in recent years such as Feijao (Brazil 2019), Cieneguita (Mexico 2018) and Fundao/Samarco (Brazil 2015) mine disasters.

Tailings are generally deposited into surface facilities in the form of a slurry or filter cake (i.e. dry stacking), where further settlement and consolidation may occur with time. An Options or Trade-Off study is usually the first step in selecting the most cost effective option that could meet all regulatory requirements and site specific criteria, including construction, operation and closure costs.

In this presentation a number of tailings management systems ranging from “conventional” to advanced schemes are outlined, and some of the associated risks will be highlighted. The main parameters driving selection of the optimal form for a tailings management scheme will also be presented, together with some discussion around principles of a defensive design for tailings dams.

About the speakers

Dr. Behrooz Ghahreman-Nejad ATC Williams

Behrooz is a Principal Geotechnical/ Dams Engineer, as well as Technical Manager for ATC Williams.

Dr Ghahreman-Nejad commenced his engineering career as a consultant 27 years ago and has extensive experience on a broad range of projects in the civil, geotechnical and mining engineering fields with significant emphasis on the geotechnical and water management aspects of tailings and water retaining dams. He has been responsible for project management, feasibility study, geotechnical investigation, design and documentation, construction support, due diligence audits and dam safety reviews.

Behrooz is also an Honorary Senior Fellow with the University of Melbourne and in his role is responsible for casual teaching and research at the Department of Infrastructure Engineering.

Keith Seddon ATC Williams

Keith is a Senior Principal and ATC Williams Board Chairman and is responsible for all aspects of engineering, but in particular planning, investigation, design, construction and surveillance of tailings disposal and storage systems, water dams, and all aspects of geotechnical engineering and hydrogeology.

Keith has close to 40 years’ experience in geotechnical and civil engineering, with particular emphasis on tailings storage assessment and design, earthworks and excavations.

Specialist areas also include dams and hydraulic structures, foundation investigation and design, investigation for civil engineering projects, groundwater and seepage investigations and slope stability assessment.

Keith has extensive research and publications history in thickened tailings management and earthworks design. Keith is a member of the Institute of Engineers Australia, the Australasian Institute of Mining & Metallurgy, and the Australian Geomechanics Society.

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