Authors: Spagnoli, G; Clement, F; Dilnesa, BZ; Cao, FH; Feng, P

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Spagnoli, G, Clement, F, Dilnesa, BZ, Cao, FH & Feng, P 2019, 'A new waterproofing membrane for tailings ponds', 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. 153-164,

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Tailings are the materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction of ore from the gangue. Tailings ponds are engineered structures created using dams, berms and natural features such as valleys, hillsides or depressions. The pumping of tailings slurry into a pond allows the sedimentation of solids from the water. Tailings ponds can be highly toxic because they are used to store harmful waste made from separating minerals from rocks or the slurry produced from tar sands mining. To minimise contamination of underlying groundwater, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) liners are used. These liners are prefabricated sheets that are welded onsite to form a continuous waterproofing membrane that prevents the migration of contaminated water into the environment. Despite their widespread application, HDPE liners have inherent performance limitations, such as leakages at the location of welds, UV resistance, maintenance and repair. This paper considers a new type of sprayable reactive membrane as a waterproofing structure. Permeability tests with the Rowe cell, chemical and durability tests (interaction with water and leachates at different temperatures, oxidation and UV resistance tests) and mechanical tests (tensile strength tests, elongation tests, puncture tests) were performed and compared with conventional HDPE membranes for tailing ponds. Results showed that the new sprayable membrane has good performance comparable with the conventional HDPE membrane and it can be a very attractive solution for tailings ponds liners.

Keywords: tailings ponds, membrane, liners, laboratory tests, mechanical properties, chemical resistance

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