Authors: Coffey, JP; Plunkett, JD; Patel, A; Oliver, J; Gunner, M; Carneiro, A

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Coffey, JP, Plunkett, JD, Patel, A, Oliver, J, Gunner, M & Carneiro, A 2021, 'Achieving the design intent, reducing risk and saving costs of tailings storage facilities', in AB Fourie & D Reid (eds), Paste 2021: Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on Paste, Thickened and Filtered Tailings, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 3-16,

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The mining industry continuously strives to increase the effectiveness of tailings management practices to minimise impacts on people and the environment. A commonly stated objective of operations is to achieve the design intent, but is this clearly communicated by designers and understood by stakeholders? Planning, operating, monitoring and closing a tailings storage facility (TSF) can present many challenges, especially in dynamic mining environments where site conditions vary spatially and with time. However, big impacts can be made at relatively small cost once the tailings management system, design and performance are well defined and understood. This paper presents various examples of initiatives aimed at achieving the design intent that have been adopted by Rio Tinto Iron Ore, which also reduce risks and improve tailings management performance. Examples presented include development and communication of short-term, long-term and life-of-facility deposition plans, implementation of simple deposition management tools, monitoring and managing slurry density, development and continual oversight of water balance models, and sound investment in water management infrastructure extending to safe performance in emergency situations. Regular governance was also implemented to provide assurance that these controls remain effective. These improvements also provide a financial benefit in the form of deferred capital expenditure due to the achievement of greater in situ densities of tailings deposits; a fortuitous by-product of following the principles within the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM) (Global Tailings Review 2020) and other industry guidance documents. As such, this paper aims to illustrate the benefits of continually improving tailings management practices with a focus on simple and in some cases novel approaches.

Keywords: tailings management, design intent, deposition, water balance, decant

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