Watson, AH, Corser, PG, Garces Pardo, EE, Lopez Christian, TE & Vandekeybus, J 2010, 'A comparison of alternative tailings disposal methods — the promises and realities', in R Jewell & AB Fourie (eds), Proceedings of the First International Seminar on the Reduction of Risk in the Management of Tailings and Mine Waste
, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 499-514.
Despite technological advances in mineral processing, mining companies still face challenges in how to best
manage tailings materials. In addition, mining of lower grades of ore has resulted in increased water use per
unit of production; at certain sites, water availability is the single greatest constraint on mine development.
In some cases, alternative tailings disposal (ATD) has been viewed as a ‘silver bullet’ that will address all
tailings management issues, especially water concerns. In addition, in some cases ATD technologies also
promise a smaller footprint and reduced environmental impact and risks.
This paper looks at the promise and realities of ATD methods and will provide high-level guidance on when
to use individual technologies and where conventional wet disposal is still the preferred method. The various
tailings disposal types presented are filtered, paste, thickened, and conventional disposal.
Energy supply, climate, production rates, project economics, operational predictability, topography,
seismicity, and water are used to frame the benefits and limiting factors behind each ATD method.
Recommendations on when to use each disposal method are made.
Arbuthnot, I.M. and Triglavcanin, R.A. (2005) Designing for paste thickening – testwork and sizing for paste
thickeners, in Proceedings Eighth International Seminar on Paste and Thickened Tailings (Paste05), R. Jewell
and S. Barrera (eds), 20–22 April 2005, Santiago, Chile, RIL Editors, Santiago, pp. 99–116.
A comparison of alternative tailings disposal methods — the promise and realities A.H. Watson et al.
514 Mine Waste 2010, Perth, Australia
Boger, D., Scales, P. and Sofrá, F. (2006) Rheological Concepts, Paste and Thickened Tailings – A Guide, second
edition, R.J. Jewell and A.B. Fourie (eds), Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, Australia, pp. 25–37.
Bussiere, B. (2004) Colloquium 2004: Hydrogeotechnical Properties of Hard Rock Tailings from Metal Mines and
Emerging Geoenvironmental Disposal Approaches, Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 44 (2007) pp. 1019–1052.
Cincilla, W.A., Landriault, D.A. and Verburg, R. (1997) Application of Paste Technology to Surface Disposal of
Mineral Wastes, in Proceedings 4th International Conference on Tailings and Mine Waste, Fort Collins,
Colorado, pp. 343–356.
Foged, S. and Vandekeybus, J. (2006) How to substantially improve the life of a 30 ha tailings pond at a Umicore zinc
plant, Iron Control Technologies, J.E. Dutrizac and P.A. Riveros (eds), pp. 707–721.
Jewell, R.J. (2006) Introduction, in Paste and Thickened Tailings – A Guide, 2nd edition, R.J. Jewell and A.B. Fourie
(eds), Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 3–9.
MWH Americas Inc. (2009) Internal Report, Alternative Tailings Disposal Initiative, Western Australia: Site Visit
Report, January 2009.
Newman, P., Cadden, A. and White, R. (2001) Paste, the Future of Tailings Disposal, in Proceedings 2nd International
Conference on Mining and the Environment, 'Securing the Future', June 27 – July 1 2001, Skelleftea Sweden,
Sofrá, F. and Boger, D. (2001) Environmental rheology for waste minimisation in the minerals industry, Chemical
Engineering Journal, Vol. 86 (2002) pp. 319–330.
Tacey, W. and Hart, B. (2006) Making Tailings Disposal Sustainable: A Key Business Issue, in Paste and Thickened
Tailings – A Guide, 2nd edition, R.J. Jewell and A.B. Fourie (eds), Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth,
Williams, M.P.A., Seddon, K.D. and Fitton, T.G. (2008) Surface Disposal of Paste and Thickend Tailings – A Brief
History and Current Confronting Issues, in Proceedings Eleventh International Seminar on Paste and Thickened
Tailings (Paste08), A.B. Fourie, R.J. Jewell, P. Slatter and A. Paterson (eds), 5–9 May 2008, Kasane, Botswana,
Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 143–164.