Authors: Santiago, O; Menezes, R; McAdam, W; Smirk, D

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Santiago, O, Menezes, R, McAdam, W & Smirk, D 2024, 'Why accelerated mechanical consolidation delivers equal or greater benefits to other tailings management solutions', 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. 349-360,

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The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and members have created a roadmap that outlines significant improvements in the reduction and improvement of tailings management. Key aspects of tailings management under the ICMM improvement plan are to: Achieve safer management of tailings facilities Remove moisture from and strengthen tailings Reduce or eliminate the generation of tailings waste. All these improvement initiatives and additional benefits can be achieved by the implementation of in situ tailings management methodology termed accelerated mechanical consolidation (AMC™) on new and existing facilities. Australia-based company, Phibion, has been successfully deploying and implementing in situ mechanical dewatering (AMC) with a customised advanced Archimedes screw tractor, MudMaster®, which works oversaturated material to overcome hindered settling and consolidation, expediting the transition from slurry to solid. The process is primarily delivered through enhancing the particle packing density through repeated passes of the MudMaster (mechanical aid) to influence drainage and consolidation. The physical properties of the tailings and when combined with sequenced tailings deposition and ploughing of a predetermined layer thickness accelerates the dewatering rate and increases the final density that can be achieved which is not significantly impacted by rainfall nor dependent on evaporation. When executed with purposebuilt machines, consolidation is delivered orders of magnitude faster than self-weight processes and is highly predictable. In situ mechanical dewatering operations, utilising mechanical aid, are currently the preferred and best available technology used by a range of mining/processing operations including commodities such as copper, rare earth metals, nickel, zinc, bauxite and alumina among others. This paper provides a deep understanding on how in situ mechanical dewatering has provided equal or greater benefits and added value when compared with other tailings management solutions (i.e. thickening, filter press and dry stacking) to a zinc refinery and smelter tailings in Brazil. In situ mechanical dewatering applied with a specialised tractor has demonstrated a methodology for this operation to prolong the life of the refinery complex by extending the tailings storage facility’s (TSF) storage capacity, improving tailings dewatering, reducing water accumulation, aligning customer with ICMM objectives for tailings management and allowing for earlier than expected TSF closure, thus reducing liabilities and uncertainties in the process.

Keywords: in situ mechanical dewatering, accelerated mechanical consolidation, zinc, tailings management solution

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