Authors: Barrientos, M; López, A

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Barrientos, M & López, A 2013, 'Key aspects to consider in the design of facilities that comprise a tailings deposit at high concentrations', in R Jewell, AB Fourie, J Caldwell & J Pimenta (eds), Paste 2013: Proceedings of the 16th International Seminar on Paste and Thickened Tailings, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 615-621,

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One of the most important things that a mine site must do is safely and economically dispose of its wastes. In the particular case of a mining facility with a concentrator plant, its principal residue is tailings, whose storage or disposal frequently results in handling large volumes of material. Historically, Chile has been and is recognised as a mining country, with its main deposits located in mountainous areas with complex topographic characteristics, which has meant that the disposition of tailings is an important aspect in the definition and viability of a mining project. In addition, the sustained increase in the amount of tailings to be deposited, the optimisation of process water recovery from tailings, the minimisation of environmental impacts and the need to reduce the costs associated with the implementation of a tailings dam, has led to the investment of time and resources in research and the applications of technology in order to meet the current demands of the projects. For this reason and others, since 2002 thickening technology and tailings disposal at high concentrations has been increasingly applied in Chile. Expectations regarding thickened tailings technology at high concentrations are fundamentally to respond to and solve the main problems that the mining industry is facing today; primarily in optimising the management of water resources, minimising environmental impacts and improving major facilities included in a tailings deposit, specifically containment structures. Undoubtedly the technology of thickened tailings is a key in the optimisation of process water recovery and in minimising environmental impacts. However, it is not clear whether under current regulations in Chile governing the design of the facilities that comprise the reservoir (containment embankments, surface water management system, among others) these could be minor compared to those that constitute a conventional deposit. This paper seeks to identify the critical aspects (physical stability of tailings, flood management, zero discharge, and erosion) that impact the design of facilities in accordance with current regulations in Chile, and how these aspects influence the stability of a tailings deposit in the long term.

Article 294 of the Water Code, Dirección General de Aguas, Chile.
Boger, D.V and Sofrá, F. (2002) Environmental rheology for waste minimisation in the minerals industry, Chemical Engineering Journal, Australia, Vol. 86, Issue 3, 28 April 2002, pp. 319–330.
Supreme Decree D.S.248. Regulations for the approval of design, construction, operation and closure of tailings dams projects, Mining Ministry of Chile, December 2006.

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