Leading practice in tailings planning for high-throughput mining operations Cox, Ben; Anstey, David
Tailings planning requires integration of managerial, geotechnical, hydrological, hydrogeological, mining, and process engineering disciplines. It is an important activity for all mineral processing operations but is critically important to high-throughput mining operations that produce large tailings volumes. The large volumes mean that deposition and water management conditions can change rapidly over short durations and lead to adverse production outcomes or failure. Both the Canadian oil sands and Chilean copper mining industries contain multiple examples of high-throughput mining operations. They provide useful case studies to identify leading practices in tailings planning and management. Copper and oil sands mining differ in their history, labor costs, tailings composition, regulatory requirements, risk tolerance, and climate. However, there remain opportunities for both industries to learn from each other. Different approaches to design, operation, water management and regulation provide opportunities to develop a leading practice approach to tailings planning. Examples of these practices include the separation of long and short-range planning activities, the use of probabilistic as opposed to deterministic mass balance models, a focus on the management of slimes (or fluid tailings) as a distinct tailings stream, and the integration of consolidation into volumetric tailings planning.
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