Authors: Pang, KL; Lacy, HWB; Haymont, R; Potts, R


Cite As:
Pang, KL, Lacy, HWB, Haymont, R & Potts, R 2009, 'Resolving challenges in tailings closure in semi-arid deserts — a case study into the decommissioning and rehabilitation of the Tanami Mine Three Cell tailings storage facility', in AB Fourie & M Tibbett (eds), Mine Closure 2009: Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 329-341,

Download citation as:   ris   bibtex   endnote   text   Zotero

Tanami Mine, located within the Tanami Desert of the Northern Territory, approximately 670 km northwest of Alice Springs, is one of the most remote mine sites in Australia. The site comprises 45 open pits, eight backfilled pits, 11 in-pit tailing storage facilities (TSF), 24 waste rock landforms, two above ground TSF, a processing plant and on-site village accommodation scattered over 70 km in length. The mine site, including TSF, has been subject to a systematic closure process over the last five years. The large Three Cell above ground paddock style TSF was seen by previous mine closure planners as a major challenge to rehabilitate, and accordingly had attracted the largest portion of the closure budget. Deposition of tailings into the TSF occurred between 1992 and 2001, and from this time the cells were allowed to dry and consolidate. The decommissioning process for the facility began in 2004, and a staged and logical approach was employed. Early in the process a review of literature and prior investigations was undertaken to identify gaps in information. The resolution of identified gaps required geochemical investigations for acid base chemistry and multi-elements, surveys of density of deposited tailings, compaction reduction studies through ripping trials with different dozers, ripper depth and configurations, geotechnical assessment of the existing walls, and an extensive upper surface closure option review, followed by a field trial to determine optimum cover designs for rehabilitation and closure. Planning for tailings closure can often be a two to three year process, or longer for more problematic tailings stored in complex facilities, or facilities located on mine sites that have competing resource requirements. At the time of writing this paper, the closure earthworks for the Three Cell TSF were in the final stages, resulting in an active closure process of five years duration. It is expected that by late 2009 all earthworks will be complete and an “as-built decommissioning report” will be prepared. The site will then move into the monitoring phase. The closure of the TSF has not been without challenges and included a one in 910 year annual exceedance probability (AEP) rainfall event which produced large-scale surface water flow and erosion. Other challenges included drought conditions, cold winters, extreme summer temperatures and perceived edaphic difficulties. This paper presents the process employed for the closure of the Three Cell TSF, the investigations, the issues encountered and the final closure strategy.

Australian Tailings Consultants (2006) Tailings Storage Facility Closure Studies Report on Proposed Hydraulic Design
for Tailings Surface Runoff, Newmont Australia Tanami Operations, Victoria, internal report, 23 p.,
Australian Tailings Consultants (2003) Tanami Mine – Walkover Inspection of Perimeter Tailings Cells, 1, 2 and 3,
Newmont Australia, Victoria, internal letter report, 13 p., (unpublished).
Bureau of Meteorology (2009) Climate statistics for Australian locations, viewed 16 July 2009,
Department of Industry and Tourism Resources (2006) Mine closure and completion, leading practice sustainable
development program from the mining industry, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, p. 63.
Dowd, P. and Slight, M. (2006) The Business Case for Effective Mine Closure, In Proceedings of the First International
Seminar on Mine Closure, Mine Closure 2006, A.B. Fourie, M. Tibbett (eds), 13–15 September 2006, Perth,
Australia, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 3–11.
Environmental Geochemistry International Pty Ltd (1995) Environmental geochemical assessment of mine rock and
tailings, NSR Environmental Consultants Pty Limited, Hawthorn, internal report, 14 p., (unpublished).
Graeme Campbell and Associates (2006) Tanami Project: Testing Programme on Water-Retention Properties of Soil,
Regolith and Tailings-Solids Samples, and Wicking-Column Testing of Regolith Sample, for Assessing Closure
Options for the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF), Ref No: 0518/2, Bridgetown, In Outback Ecology (2006a)
Integration of Technical findings from Site Investigations to Assist in Rehabilitation Planning at the Tanami
Mine, Perth, internal report, 31 p., (unpublished).
Haymont, R., Clements, E. and Lacy, H.W.B. (2008) Closure through a process of collaboration: Suggestions as to how
mining companies and contractors can work together to make closure processes successful, In Proceedings of the
Ecosystem reconstruction and pedogenesis
Mine Closure 2009, Perth, Australia 341
First International Seminar on the Management of Rock Dumps, Stockpiles and Heap Leach Pads, Rock Dumps
2008, A.B. Fourie (ed), 5–6 March 2008, Perth, Australia, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth,
pp. 147–150.
Lacy, H.W.B. (2005) Closure and Rehabilitation of Tailings Storage Facilities, Developments in Minerals Processing,
Vol. 15, M. Adams (ed), Elsevier BV, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Sect 1.4.2.
Lacy, H.W.B. and Barnes, K.L. (2006) Tailings Storage Facilities Decommissioning Planning is vital for successful
closure, In Proceedings of the First International Seminar on Mine Closure, Mine Closure 2006, A.B. Fourie, M.
Tibbett (eds), 13–15 September 2006, Perth, Australia, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 139–148.
Lacy, H.W.B. and Campbell, G. (2000) Decommissioning Tailings-Storage Facilities: The challenges and how they are
being met during closure of a Nickel-Sulphide Mine in Western Australia, 4th International and 25th National
Environmental Workshop, Minerals Council of Australia, Perth.
Newmont Australia (2004) Mining Management Plan 2003/2004, Granites MLS 8 (MLS 134–MLS 144), Dead Bullock
Soak MLS 154, Minotaur ML 23283, Groundrush ML 22934, Tanami MLS 153 (Processing), Newmont
Australia, internal report, 50 p., (unpublished).
Newmont Australia (2006a) Tanami Legacy Site – Closure Criteria Report (Draft Version 1), Newmont Australia,
internal report, 13 p., (unpublished).
Newmont Australia (2006b) Newmont Legacy Sites - Tanami Mine Closure and Rehabilitation Plan, Management
System and Record, Newmont Australia, internal report, 103 p., (unpublished).
Newmont Tanami Operations (2008) Mining Management Plan 2008, Draft February 2008, Granites MLS 8 (MLS 134
– MLS 144), Dead Bullock Soak MLS 154, Minotaur ML 23283, Newmont Tanami Operations, internal report,
60 p., (unpublished).
O’Kane Consultants Pty Ltd (2004) Development of a Cover System Design for the Newmont Australia Tanami Mine
Joint Venture Operations, Phase One Final Report, Potential Cover and Tailings Dam Material Characterisation
and Cover System Design Soil-Atmosphere Modelling, Newmont Australia, Brisbane, internal report, 48 p.,
Outback Ecology (2009) Newmont Australia Tanami Mine, Tailings Research field Trial – Three Cell Tailings Storage
Facility, Third year of assessment (February 2009), Newmont Australia, Perth, internal report, 27 p.,
Outback Ecology (2007) Newmont Australia Tanami Gold Project, Tanami Three Cell Tailings Storage Facility (Cells
1, 2 and 3) Draft Decommissioning Plan (January 2007), Newmont Australia, Perth, internal report, 40 p.,
Outback Ecology (2006a) Literature Review Tanami Mine TSF Closure (August 2006), Newmont Australia, Perth,
internal report, 330 p., (unpublished).
Outback Ecology (2006b) Tailings Research Field Trials to Determine Cost Effective Rehabilitation Strategies, Tanami
Mine, Three Cell TSF, Newmont Australia, Perth, internal report, 12 p., (unpublished).
Robertson GeoConsultants Inc. (2009) 2008 Groundwater Monitoring Report, Tanami Tailings Operations, Northern
Territory, Australia, Newmont Australia, Vancouver, internal report, 19 p., (unpublished).
Robertson GeoConsultants Inc. (2006) 2005 Groundwater Monitoring Report Draft, Tanami Tailings Operations,
Northern Territory, Australia, Newmont Australia, Vancouver, internal report, 24 p., (unpublished).
Thomas, D.S. (1989) Arid Zone Geomorphology, Belhaven Press, London, pp. 2–3.
Tongway, D. (2008) Facilitating Mine Closure with a Continuous Analysis and Review System, In Proceedings of the
Third International Seminar on Mine Closure, Mine Closure 2008, A.B. Fourie, M. Tibbett, I.M. Weiersbye,
P. Dye (eds), 14–17 October 2008, Johannesburg, South Africa, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth,
pp. 21–26.

© Copyright 2024, Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG), The University of Western Australia. All rights reserved.
View copyright/legal information
Please direct any queries or error reports to