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Tailings regulation – a South Australian perspective

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Author G B Smith, A Querzoli and G M Marshall

Description

The South Australian mining regulatory framework has adopted a performance based approach to the management of risk. This approach has been in place in South Australia for more than 10 years and is increasingly being implemented in mining jurisdictions in Australia and around the world. Performance based regulation focuses on setting appropriate environmental outcomes to be achieved based on an assessment of the potential impacts associated with the development, operation and closure of mining projects. Measurable compliance criteria, including completion criteria, are set to demonstrate achievement of the outcomes. It is the responsibility of the proponent to propose designs and strategies that will achieve the regulated environmental outcomes and to demonstrate the implementation of their designs and strategies will achieve the outcomes into the future.

Tailings Storage Facilities (TSFs) are significant elements of many major mines and each is unique with site specific factors such a materials to be stored, design, size, location, climate, sensitive receptors, operating history of the facility (i.e. changes to design), site culture and company capability amongst a range of other factors. Consequently a fit-for purpose approach is a key principle of best practice regulation of tailings management as it takes the site specific factors into account in setting appropriate outcomes for mitigating the identified impacts associated with a proposed development. Achievement of those outcomes through fit-for purpose, well designed management strategies would ensure safe, stable and economic storage of tailings in a manner that complies with all legislative requirements and presents negligible public health and safety risks. Tailings storage must also have acceptably low social and environmental impacts, both on and off site, during operation and indefinitely post closure. Achievement of environmental outcomes during operations and at mine completion can then be demonstrated to the regulator and community through public reporting of compliance with measurement criteria which establish the appropriate level of impact for each individual operation.

A number of new mining proposals including tailings storage facilities (TSF) have recently been assessed and approved in South Australia. The location, size, design, sensitive receptors, public interest and therefore risk profiles of these TSF’s have varied substantially between these new mining proposals. These considerations were reflected in the assessment of the TSFs and the resulting mining lease conditions of approval including the environmental outcomes to be achieved over the life of the facilities. This paper and the accompanying presentation will provide case studies of recently approved TSFs within South Australia and the regulatory framework for each case.

CITATION:

Smith, G B, Querzoli, A and Marshall, G M, 2018. Tailings regulation – a South Australian perspective, in Proceedings Mine Waste and Tailings Stewardship Conference 2018, pp 166–177 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).