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Optimisation of surface tailings storage and tailings backfill – a case study


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Author N R Steward, B P Wrench and C Wu


A gold mine in southern China has transitioned from an open pit operation to a fully underground mine. An overhand mining method is used which requires the mined stopes to be filled with backfill having an unconfined compressive strength of at least 0.35MPa. Tailings from the process plant is deposited into separate flotation and Carbon in Leach (CIL) tailings storage facilities. The tailings has a high fines content and the thickener on site could only produce a dilute flotation tailings at a solids content of about 30 wt%. This resulted in two undesirable outcomes: the density of flotation tailings in the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) was significantly lower than planned so that the TSF could not store the life of mine tailings and that the backfill product had to include a high percentage of manufactured aggregate and increased cement content to achieve the required strength.

This paper presents results of a tailings study which identified that the flotation TSF would be capable of storing the remaining life of mine tailings if an amended backfill product made up of 100% of flotation tailings could be introduced. A 100% tailings backfill with the addition of 8% cement was developed by classifying the tailings and using the coarser fraction in the backfill. This backfill allowed 60% of the flotation tailings to be placed underground and only the remaining 40% in the flotation TSF. A new thickener was designed and installed to thicken the tailings and rheological testing of the tailings, using a closed loop pilot plant, provided parameters to upgrade the underground reticulation system to deliver cemented backfill to stopes throughout the mine and to deliver thickened tailings to the TSF. The revised design was implemented and has resulted in considerable cost savings.


Steward, N R, Wrench, B P and Wu, C, 2018. Optimisation of surface tailings storage and tailings backfill – a case study, in Proceedings Mine Waste and Tailings Stewardship Conference 2018, pp 454–464 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).