The Asia Miner

APR-JUN 2019

The ASIA Miner - Reporting Important Issues to Mining Companies in the Asia Pacific Region

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the asia miner • volume 16 • issue 2 4 LEADING DEVELOPMENTS When tailings aren't just tailings Tailings, refuse, mine dumps, slickens, culm dumps, slimes – by whatever name, mine ore waste and its storage and handling has become a major environmental and safety issue on the agenda of mining companies, governments and environmental groups. For one 18kt gold wedding band, approximately eight tonnes of waste is generated 1 . Consider how much waste must be produced to manufacture components for a mobile phone, the car or tram you take to work or the size of a single wind turbine? Bearing in mind the global populaঞon's increasing reliance on consumer goods coupled with lower ore grades, the annual volume of tailings produced is staggering. "When you look at a modern mining operaঞon, it can appear more like a waste handling facility than a mine, with more than 90 per cent of the material generally disposed of in the form of tailings. The safe management and storage of tailings is paramount for any mine operaঞon," says Job Kruyswijk, Tailings Process Specialist for Weir Minerals. The tradiঞonal means of tailings disposal is typically an impound method, o[en stored in a constructed dam in diluted form. This form of waste storage poses a number of concerns, the biggest of which is safety. Addiঞonally, tailings dams occupy vast landmass, require large quanঞঞes of water to dilute the tailings for storage, and o[en have a limited capacity. The toxic nature of tailings also requires extensive preventaঞve measures to miঞgate risk, including employee safety, leaks into local ecosystems and waterways and minimising the potenঞal of a dam collapse. Amid intensifying societal concerns relaঞng to the safety of communiঞes and fragility of ecosystems, increasingly necessary and stringent social and environmental regulaঞons follow suit. "The mining industry has changed significantly over the last few years, and the social license to conঞnue to operate has become increasingly important," says John Abbo, Global Product Manager for Tailings at Weir Minerals. "It's evident there is a drive within the mining industry to invesঞgate doing things differently." Under this emerging scruঞny, the mining industry is under pressure to implement responsible management of tailings, as well as address the environmental impact le[ on the surrounding areas. 'Green mining' iniঞaঞves – Natural Resources Canada (2015) which "targets the development of innovaঞve energy-efficient technologies required for mining to leave behind only clean water, rehabilitated landscapes and healthy ecosystems" 2 – are expected globally. While the tradiঞonal means of mining and waste management may be in crisis, it's also an exciঞng ঞme of innovaঞon for those open to alternaঞve methods such as backfill, tailings as a resource and tailings re-mining. "Constantly redefining innovaঞon is criঞcal to informing best pracঞce," says Nils Steward, General Manager at the Weir Technical Centre. "At the Weir Technical Centre (WTC), we have the pilot plant capabiliঞes to simulate what exists onsite. From there,

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