Tailings and Mine Waste Conference

Reassessment of best available tailings management practices Barrera, Sergio; Cacciuttolo, Carlos; Caldwell, Jack


The way in which tailings are managed reflects the history, the regulatory framework and the environment of the country and locale of the mine. In spite of many attempts to find an environmentally friendly strategy for tailings management that considers a balanced relationship between society, ecosystem, and industry, there is no world-wide agreement on what constitutes best available tailings management practices. Current and developing best available tailings management practices in Chile offer many lessons to mines in other parts of the world. This paper examines the evolution of tailings management in Chile, current practices, and recent proposals for best management practices. It examines the development of Chilean tailings management practices as a response to local environmental conditions, local tolerance for risk, and the influence of practice elsewhere in the world. It includes a review of case histories of Chilean tailings facilities using upstream, centerline, and downstream construction methods; the use of cyclone sand/slime separation; filtered tailings; water use reduction; and ways to avoid failure in a seismic region. Also reviewed are recent proposals for best management practices including dewatering of tailings; the use of Independent Tailings Review Boards; and a risk-based approach to tailings facility design and operation. The paper concludes that the unique demands on the Chilean mining industry have led to more responsible tailings management practices that have much to offer practitioners in the rest of the world and may lead to the elusive goal of a zero-failure practice.

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