Authors: Coffey, JP; Plunkett, JD; Carneiro, A

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Coffey, JP, Plunkett, JD & Carneiro, A 2021, 'The benefits of integrating long-term tailings and mine plans', 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. 165-176,

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Tailings management plays a significant role in the overall risk profile of mining operations, and there are significant measurable financial, reputational and sustainability benefits associated with achieving leading practice that effectively reduces the risks related to tailings storage facilities (TSFs). Recent TSF failure investigation reports and other literature have emphasised the need to consider innovative means for tailings management to facilitate a reduction of risk, but it appears likely that improved safety performance of TSFs will not only be achieved through advances in design methods, but also in selection of storage options that seek to reduce the consequence of facility failure. To this end, strategic planning in which large horizons of time and varying inter-dependencies of the components that make up the tailings operation are considered is essential. While this is widely acknowledged, there are limited published examples of how mining companies apply strategic planning considering whole-of-life comparisons linking the integration of TSFs embedded within the mine plan. This paper presents a set of case studies where significant benefits have been or are being realised through the integration of long-term tailings and mine planning functions at Rio Tinto Iron Ore mine sites. This has been made possible through the ongoing update of a tailings management plan which includes key inputs from a multi-disciplinary team. It is suggested that the discussion and data presented in this paper will serve to demonstrate that reducing risk, and even costs, is often possible in parallel through strong planning and integration with other disciplines.

Keywords: tailings, risk, cost, strategic planning

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