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), Mine Waste 2010: Proceedings of the First International Seminar on the Reduction of Risk in the Management of Tailings and Mine Waste
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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.
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