Mine Tailings Storage: Safety Is No Accident

Tailings dam failures An analysis of tailings dam failures over the last three decades, indicates that while the overall number of failures has decreased, the number of serious failures has increased (Bowker and Chambers 2016; Figure 7).

It is widely accepted in the technical and scientific community that good management, with an integrated approach that extends from facility design to closure, plays a significant role in mitigating and reducing the risk of tailings storage-facility failures. However, some external factors may increase the risk of failure. Bowker and Chambers (2015) found a significant correlation between an increase in the severity of tailings storage-facility failures and economic conditions that squeeze cash flow for miners, such as a decrease in commodity prices and an increase in production costs (due to lower grades of ore). The 2001 ICOLD report recommended that a conservative approach should be taken in designing tailings storage facilities. This would take into account the most conservative assumptions about capacity requirements and natural events, such as floods and earthquakes (Bowker and Chambers 2015).


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