Engineers Australia

Tailings Dam Failures

What can we learn and how can we better operate tailings dams?

Sean Sullivan, Dr Bruce Brown, Wade Ludlow and Prof David Williams

The evening will comprise 2 presentations prior to a 30 min expert panel discussion.

Preliminary Schedule

1730 – 1800hrs – Registration + networking drinks
1800 – 1830hrs – Sean Sullivan – “Operational Excellence of Tailings Facilities”
1830 – 1900hrs – Dr. Bruce Brown – “What can we learn from Tailings Dam Failures”
1900 – 1930hrs – Expert Panel Discussion on “How can we better operate tailings dams & what we can learn from the failures of such facilities” (Sean Sullivan, Dr. Bruce Brown, Wade Ludlow & Professor David Williams)

About the speakers

Photo of Sean Sullivan

Sean SullivanSpecialised Operations Co-ordinator, Queensland Alumina Limited

“Operational Excellence of Tailings Facilities”

Commenced in the Tailings Industry for ‘Fraser Alexander Tailings’ in South Africa in 2001 as a Dam operator. Progressed within 10 years to managing daily operations on 21 Tailings facilities across the countryside covering an area of approximately 82 000 km2, which included Gold, Diamond, Zinc and Coal Tailings facilities.

Currently employed at Queensland Alumina Limited from 2011 as Specialised Operations Co-ordinator responsible for the Operations and Management of the two Bauxite Tailings Facilities, the Coal Tailings Facility and the Mineral Waste Facility at the Gladstone refinery.

The topic of my presentation is called ‘Operational Excellence’.

I’ll be presenting a summary of items and tasks that will assist in the successful Operating and Managing of Tailings Facilities. Not only will this assist in reducing the risk to the facility but will also highlight the need for thorough inspections and encourage operators to be aware of the importance of daily monitoring.

Photo of Bruce Brown

Dr Bruce BrownDirector, Bruce Brown Consulting

“What can we learn from Tailings Dam Failures”

Bruce Brown has 43 years’ experience in geotechnical engineering and mine waste management. His career has comprised 25 years as a principal of the international consulting group, Knight Piésold Consulting and 13 years as the Chief Adviser, Tailings and Dams for Rio Tinto, Technology and Innovation. In this time he has been responsible for the design, construction, operation and closure of numerous tailings storage facilities in North and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and the South Pacific. His experience ranges from cold regions of Alaska and Northern Canada to the mountainous regions of South America and the tropical monsoonal countries. With Rio Tinto, he has been focussed on risk management, technical reviews and development of standards for effective mine waste management. He was an author of the ANCOLD Guidelines on Planning, Design, Construction, Operation and Closure of Tailings Dams and the Federal EPA Tailings Containment module of the Best Practice Environmental Management in Mining.

Dr Brown is now in private practice and offers services to the mining and consulting communities for peer and independent technical and strategic reviews, audits for operations and construction quality assurance, risk assessments, conceptual design and value engineering.

Photo of Wade Ludlow

Wade Ludlow

Wade Ludlow is a principal civil and water resources engineer with over 20 years’ experience. He specialises in tailings dams, civil, liner systems, dam engineering and water resource projects particularly for the mining industries in Australia.

Wade currently holds a technical expert/technical support role for a leading Australian mining company, providing technical input and review for major Tailings Storage Facilities operations and closure projects. Wade’s key areas of expertise include Project Leader roles for engineering teams, along with technical expertise in water resources and tailings and dam engineering. Wade has specialised in geotechnical aspects of tailings dams along with water management plans/water balances, hydraulic and hydrologic analyses, as well as seepage modelling and optimisation strategies. His geotechnical and dam engineering experience includes; stability analyses of upstream, centreline and downstream raise embankments, dam and highway embankments, tailings deposition, haul road design and geotechnical investigations for major civil and mining projects.

Wade is a Chartered Professional Engineer (Civil) of the Institution of Engineers Australia, a National Professional Engineer (Civil), a Registered Professional Engineer, Queensland (RPEQ) and a Member of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences

Photo of David Williams

Prof David WilliamsGolder Professor, Director, Geotechnical Engineering Centre, University of Queensland

“Tailings Dam Failures: What can we learn and how can we better operate tailings dams?”

Professor David Williams initiated and directs the industry-sponsored Geotechnical Engineering Centre within the School of Civil Engineering at The University of Queensland, with industry funding of the order of $600,000/year, and University matching funding of the order of $300,000/year.  The Centre supports unique Civil & Geotechnical Engineering and Mining & Geotechnical Engineering Dual Major Degree Programs, which graduate up to 65 students per year, and has up to 40 PhD students. 

Professor Williams is also the Manager of the Large Open Pit Project.  David’s primary research and consulting interests lie in the application of geotechnical principles to the management and rehabilitation of mine wastes, for which he enjoys an international reputation.

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