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ACG First International Seminar on the Reduction of Risk in the Management of Tailings and Mine Waste
Perth, Australia, 29 September - 1 October 2010

Organised by the Australian Centre for Geomechanics, The University of Western Australia, the First International Seminar on the Reduction of Risk in the Management of Tailings and Mine Waste held in Perth, Western Australia was a great success.

Mine Waste 2010 was established as a forum to present and review the current state of practice in the field of mine waste. At the seminar a diverse range of topics were presented and explored, including new and emerging technologies for managing tailings, appropriate design parameters and methods of analysis, utilisation of geosynthetics, long-term design and management issues, and achieving acceptable and sustainable closure. Although the majority of the papers presented at the seminar were by Australian authors, the international nature of the topic addressed by the seminar was evidenced by contributions from Austria, Canada, India, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

As Perth turned on its spring charm, almost 120 mine waste and tailings practitioners, consultants, researchers and suppliers were offered an introduction from Winthrop Professor Andy Fourie, The University of Western Australia - seminar chair. This was followed by an excellent keynote address presented by Michael Shelbourn, manager, geotechnical engineering, Barrick Gold of North America, entitled, “Geotechnical design verification and performance assessment of tailings storage facilities”. Shelbourn noted that “while the increasingly stringent demands of fiscal performance, environmental stewardship and social accountability are likely to drive future mineral processing to the generation of drier waste products, most mine tailings are still discharged as conventional slurry of mineral solids and process fluids into above-ground storage facilities."

Tailings storage facilities can represent one of the greatest risk sources for a mine site, and the geotechnical design of any such facility should be conducted at a level appropriate for the satisfactory management of that risk. During operation, work is required to verify the geotechnical design parameters and conditions, which, at least for the deposited tailings, must often be assumed in the design stage, and to assess the performance of the facility, including consideration of eventual closure and reclamation.

The first day then focussed on the related issues of managing waste rock, covering topics ranging from the design of appropriate landforms to visualisation tools and technologies.

Gary Bentel opened day two of the seminar with a keynote address titled, “The real value to the mining industry of leading-practice waste management”. Bentel commented that the “real value to the mining industry of leading-practice waste management lies in the adequacy and sufficiency of the industry’s investment in its future license to operate. If mining wastes and their associated risks are not managed correctly, or if we do not provide adequate financial assurances to close waste facilities in such a way that they do not have enduring long-term impacts, we will almost certainly leave future generations with major environmental, financial and social burdens, and hence seriously jeopardise the sustainability of the mining industry."

Day two continued with an excellent presentation on the proposed Australian National Committee on Large Dams (ANCOLD) Guidelines - risk management aspects by Gary Bentel and Bruce Brown, Rio Tinto Technology and Innovation. Brown noted that “ANCOLD sees the need to assist the mining industry and the mining community by providing technical advice on appropriate standards for tailings management and to provide a forum for the support of technical development of these structures. As part of this strategy, ANCOLD has established a sub-committee including leading practitioners from consulting, mining academic, and regulator backgrounds to review their 1999 Guideline on Tailings Dam Design, Construction and Operation. The scope of the new guidelines had been extended to provide particular guidance on the use of risk assessment techniques to assist decision making in various aspects of tailings dam management and to provide guidance on design issues related to dam closure and post-closure performance. These include issues such as consequence assessment, freeboard requirements, seepage control, earthquake design methods and recommended factors of safety, with particular attention to the potential significant difference between tailings dams and conventional water dams."

The topical issues of management and operations, geosynthetics in mining, and planning, legal and environment were also examined.

The presentations of the final day covered geochemistry, material characterisation, co-disposal, and thickened tailings. Those attending then departed to the four corners of the world having gained a shared knowledge and insight into mine tailings and waste management of their industry and research peers.

The ACG was enabled to host this event with the generous support of its sponsors, namely Golder Associates Ltd, Coffey Mining Pty Ltd and ATC Williams .

To order a copy of the Mine Waste 2010 seminar proceedings please email acgsales@acg.uwa.edu.au.

The ACG looks forward to hosting the 14th International Seminar on Paste and Thickened Tailings in Perth, Western Australia in April 2011. www.paste2011.com.




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