Authors: Carneiro, A; Fourie, AB

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Carneiro, A & Fourie, AB 2019, 'An integrated approach to cost comparisons of different tailings management options', in AJC Paterson, AB Fourie & D Reid (eds), Paste 2019: Proceedings of the 22nd International Conference on Paste, Thickened and Filtered Tailings, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 115-126,

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There are growing expectations of mining companies to operate in a more sustainable manner, with a strong business case for improving waste management and reducing environmental impacts. As the stewardship of tailings come under increasing scrutiny, decision-makers are urged to adopt a robust approach to the selection of a tailings management strategy that encompasses design for closure, and leading practices to lower the risk of catastrophic dam failures, optimise the use of resources, and mitigate environmental impacts on climate change. An integrated analysis, considering economic, environmental, social, and risk aspects of the operation can therefore provide decision-makers with balanced information to ensure the right projects proceed with an optimal business case so that the most cost-effective solution, that does not externalise costs, can be selected. However, literature review revealed that fundamental shortcomings exist within traditional evaluation approaches used for economic comparisons. This paper reports on life cycle cost analyses conducted for comparing various tailings management options under different scenarios. A conceptual case study for the disposal of gold tailings in Western Australia as a slurry, as thickened, or as filtered tailings, was considered. This was done for examining the extent to which potentially hidden costs impact on the total cost of a project. It is suggested that the proposed approach will lead to selection of a tailings management alternative that ensures sound economic, environmental, and social performance is achieved.

Keywords: tailings management, cost comparison, mine closure, life cycle assessment, sustainable mining

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