As the global demand for minerals and metals continues to grow, so too does the proliferation of mine tailings—the waste materials left over when mining is complete. Tailings storage facilities, which typically remain long after the life of a mine is over, use dams to contain ground-up rock, sand, silt and water left over from processing valuable minerals such as copper, gold and phosphate. However, the storage facilities have the potential to fail.
Many of the world’s 15,000 mine tailings storage facilities are more prone to failure than other types of water storage embankments. In one of the worst failures of the last several decades, Brazil’s Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine near Brumadinho tailings dam collapsed in early 2019. A total of 270 people were killed in a tidal wave of mud that plastered more than 623 acres with sludge and contaminated hundreds of miles of river systems.
In an effort to minimize the risk and better prepare mining engineers and operators for managing tailings facilities, the University of Arizona, Colorado State University and the Colorado School of Mines have joined forces to launch the Tailings Center of Excellence. The center is focused on educating engineers on responsible and sustainable mine waste management and advancing research-backed best practices.
“The Department of Mining and Geological Engineering at the University of Arizona has established a longstanding expertise and international reputation in monitoring the health and safety of mining and civil engineering infrastructure,” said Moe Momayez, interim department head and David & Edith Lowell Chair in Mining and Geological Engineering. “We currently have several projects inside and outside Arizona that employ digital technologies, the industrial internet of things and artificial intelligence customized for each site to provide mine operators with real-time insight regarding water quality, seepage and mechanical stability of tailings storage facilities.”
Since its founding in 1885, the University of Arizona has been home to one of the world’s top mining programs. The Colorado School of Mines and Colorado State University also have high-ranking mining programs and tailings-related training and education. The new center’s educational offerings will include online and in-person short courses and workshops, interuniversity certificates and both undergraduate and graduate outreach. The universities will also leverage industry partnerships to keep pace with real-world needs.
Michael Geddis, corporate hydrogeologist at KGHM International, explained that continually tracking conditions such as pore pressures, seepage gradients and flow rates is imperative to preventing failures.
“Near real-time monitoring of critical parameters that correlate to these operational practices can lead to detection of internal changes in the tailings storage facility that could lead to failure,” he said. “Properly designed and maintained automated monitoring systems can provide this critical link.”
The Tailings Center of Excellence also will coordinate closely with the Tailings and Waste Engineering Center, a newly established consortium of faculty from Georgia Tech, UC Berkeley, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Colorado State University.
“At the University of Arizona, we shape engineers who will shape the future,” said David W. Hahn, Craig M. Berge Dean of the UArizona College of Engineering. “Mined materials are essential for building our world—including advanced technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars. This center furthers our commitment to collaborating with industry to promote sustainability, a pillar of our mission as a land-grant institution.”
Originally published by Phys.org
Effectively monitor your tailings storage facility with Decipher
Decipher’s Tailings solution is designed to provide you with key data and insights, enabling you to effectively monitor your TSF and your environmental obligations and compliance. Our solution can be securely accessed by industry, regulators, designers and operators involved in the management of TSFs.
Decipher offers a comprehensive and functionally rich solution which combines regulatory (Compliance Management Software), mining waste management, stakeholder engagement, environmental monitoring, and environmental management system (EMS) tools to assist with tailings management:
View real-time data and receive exceedance alerts
Monitor land movement with remote sensing and InSAR datasets
Visualise real-time LiDAR data with insights into dam movement
Securely store and access all of your tailings data in the one place
Upload and reference key documentation
Visualise facilities across multiple sites in a single screen on a geospatial map
Monitor your facilities with InSAR, LiDAR, DEM and more
Capture a wide range of monitoring data and indicators su
ch as surface and groundwater, decant pond water levels and quality, and embankment conditions
Capture and track obligations and conditions around your licence to operate to manage your key risks and actions
Action and task delegation for data collection with reminders
Maintain and track environmental monitoring compliance limits and exceedances
Manage and engage with all of your stakeholders with one central repository
Convert your engagements into actionable outcomes
Forecast, plan and track your sites activities using IBM’s Weather data
Create corporate report templates and meet requests for data provision from industry groups such as ICMM, Global Tailings Portal, PRI and UNEP
Integration capability with third party systems or public portals such as the Global Tailings Portal
Want to find out more about tailings storage monitoring?
To provide the best experiences, we use technologies like cookies to store and/or access device information. Consenting to these technologies will allow us to process data such as browsing behavior or unique IDs on this site. Not consenting or withdrawing consent, may adversely affect certain features and functions.
The technical storage or access is strictly necessary for the legitimate purpose of enabling the use of a specific service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user, or for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network.
The technical storage or access is necessary for the legitimate purpose of storing preferences that are not requested by the subscriber or user.
The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for statistical purposes.The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for anonymous statistical purposes. Without a subpoena, voluntary compliance on the part of your Internet Service Provider, or additional records from a third party, information stored or retrieved for this purpose alone cannot usually be used to identify you.
The technical storage or access is required to create user profiles to send advertising, or to track the user on a website or across several websites for similar marketing purposes.