Meeting the Tailings Management Challenges
Due to the unacceptably high rate of catastrophic failures, tailings dams represent the single most significant risk to the mining industry. Unlike open pits and underground operations that fail internally, the release of tailings from surface facilities reports downstream, threatening people, infrastructure, and the environment. As a result, mining companies must engage effectively with all stakeholders and embrace their concerns through improved practices and commitment to preserving the social and environmental aspects of the regions in which they operate. At the same time, mining companies must also remain profitable and reward their owners, shareholders, employees, and the community. This represents a considerable challenge to the mining sector, given that the future will see the massive increase in commodity demand, which results in more tailings being generated. The mining industry’s responses to these challenges will be presented, including improved governance, consideration of alternative tailings management technologies, reduced tailings production, and increased tailings re-processing and potential re-use.
Professor David Williams initiated and directs the Geotechnical Engineering Centre at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. He has over 40 years of teaching, research and consulting experience. He is internationally recognised for his expertise and experience in mine waste management and mine closure. He is particularly recognised for his expertise in tailings dams, and the closure and rehabilitation of tailings dams and waste rock dumps, including the design of covers. He was a member of the Expert Panel engaged to investigate the technical causes of the fatal Brumadinho Tailings Dam I failure in Brazil in 2019. He is on multiple Independent Technical Review Boards for tailings facilities and their closure worldwide.