Water management at a tailings storage facility (TSF) presents one of the major risks to the safe performance of the facility. International and domestic dam safety guidelines assess a dam’s hazard category based on the consequences of a dam failure and the subsequent downstream damage to the environment and communities.
Often a rigorous risk assessment is undertaken during the design stages to identify and control hazards associated with water management through life-of-mine (LOM) phases. However, as experienced during the recent downturn in commodity prices, early closure of a mine can occur rapidly and unexpectedly. Although guidelines such as the Australian National Committee on Large Dams Incorporated (ANCOLD) recommend that one of the key objectives of integrated TSF planning is to ‘plan all phases of a tailing dam’s life to ensure adequate storage capacity … including early closure …’ (Australian National Committee on Large Dams Incorporated (ANCOLD), 2012) this is often overlooked by owners who are focused on fulfilling the mine’s potential and early closure is not on their radar.
Ind, M J, Rynhoud, M and Brand, K, 2016. Life-of-mine spillway strategy – managing risk associated with surface water at a tailings storage facility, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2016 Conference, pp 209–211 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).