Mining tailings and dredging

Royal IHC recently released a new blog post in which Stefan Groenheide talks about tailings dams and explains why one would want to re-mine this ‘waste’ and how IHC dredging knowledge fits in perfectly.

Creating and storing tailings has long been an integral part of mining operations. Tailings receive a great deal of publicity and managing them responsibly is a crucial aspect of a sustainable operation.

Unfortunately, owing to several tailings dam failures in recent years, much has been written about the safe storage and management of tailings.

However, how to safely re-mine stored tailings or decommission an existing dam remain underexposed topics. But why re-mine tailings in the first place? And what do we know about this at Royal IHC?

“I asked myself this very question when I joined Royal IHC several years ago. Most people in the mining industry, myself included, consider tailings to be waste that must be managed. Yet, some dams contain more metal material per tonne than new ‘greenfield’ ore deposits,” said Stefan Groenheide, mining consultant at Royal IHC. “This is because – during the extraction of the ore at the mineral processing plant – the recovery of the target metal is never perfect. This means that valuable metals can be lost and end up in the tailings.”

He continued by saying that although metal recovery percentages are getting higher due to more advanced extraction techniques, this was not always the case. Mineral extraction processes in the past (especially before the 1990s) had significantly lower recovery rates compared to today. This means that the metal grade in the tailings (that is, the fraction of material with economic value) could be high enough to be mined again.

To read the Royal IHC blog “Tailings: being clear on the opportunities and the risks” please click here.

Photo: Royal IHC