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Tailing filtration practices in Mexican gold and silver mines

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Author R Espinosa-Gomez, S Gomez-Hernandez and P D Munro
ID P201803021

Description

Filtered dry stack tailing storage facilities offer many advantages over thickened tailing storage facilities and yet, most of the mining companies still prefer the latter.

Some of the advantages of filtered dry stack tailing storage facilities are: increased structural integrity of the tailing storage facility, which is even more critical in areas of high seismicity, close to nearby communities or environmentally sensitive areas; maximised water recovery which is particularly important in arid environments where water is an extremely valuable resource and its supply is regulated; optimised recovery of valuable metals in the process water, avoiding high cyanide concentration going to detoxification (both aspects haven’t been emphasised enough in technical papers on this subject); optimised space to store the tailings in mountainous regions; minimised elevation of embankment height, providing a safe option to store the tailings in places where there is limited area available; simplified license approval to operate where the tailing facility is a big issue; and avoidance of potential problems with nearby communities.

Filtered dry stack tailing storage facilities have some disadvantages such as: technology limitations in operations that process high throughputs (eg >50 000 tpd) as they require many filters resulting in high maintenance and operating costs; higher capital cost; low efficiency in the filtration process, particularly in ores with high clay content increasing operating problems and capital cost; the new technology risk with possible debottlenecking issues and a longer time to achieve the design throughput; and the need to treat larger water flow rates when the water balance is negative.

This paper analyses: the operating practices of Mexican gold and silver operations using filtered dry stacking storage facilities; implementation issues, advantages and disadvantages; quantifiable reductions in gold and silver losses and actual lower detoxification cost; and current trends to use filtered dry stacking storage facilities in new projects. The data gathered raises questions about (a) the need to collect data on tailings filterability, and; (b) reducing the current high operating cost of tailings filtration.

CITATION:

Espinosa-Gomez, R, Gomez-Hernandez, S and Munro, P D, 2018. Tailing filtration practices in Mexican gold and silver mines, in Proceedings 14th AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference 2018, pp 275–282 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).