Authors: Gerritsen, T; Wood, R; Llano-Serna, M; Meneses, B; Dressel, W

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Gerritsen, T, Wood, R, Llano-Serna, M, Meneses, B & Dressel, W 2024, 'An alternative approach to developing compaction specifications for tailings materials', in AB Fourie & D Reid (eds), Paste 2024: Proceedings of the 26th International Conference on Paste, Thickened and Filtered Tailings, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 293-304,

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The adoption of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management requires that the most appropriate technology be adopted for the design, construction, and operation of a tailings storage facility (TSF). Dewatered tailings have been identified as the best technology for some sites. A structural zone is often considered when adopting a dewatered strategy. A structural zone can be built by placing/depositing tailings in controlled layers and compacting/trafficking the tailings as required. It is noted that the compaction specifications adopted today for tailings materials have mainly been based on those from the civil engineering industry. Often, the specifications for these materials are extensively expressed in ‘standard’ terms related to a laboratory compaction test method. Challenges arise because the laboratory compaction test was developed for different compactors from those used today. Consequently, such specifications may inadvertently lead to unmet engineering objectives and place unduly restrictive placement moisture content ranges on the tailings. The first part of the paper discusses the challenges of current compaction specifications. It highlights the benefits of defining a compaction specification using air content control and full compaction concepts, all in accordance with Proctor’s seminal work in the 1930s. The second part of this paper discusses some of the features of tailings compaction curves. The discussion includes the review of a database of compaction curves digitised during the literature review undertaken for the study. A general guideline to define a suitable specification for tailings compaction using the concepts defined in the study is proposed.

Keywords: tailings dams, compaction, dewatered tailings, dry stack, structural zone

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