Mining tailings can contain a variety of substances, including metals and stones. The main benefits of using mine tailings include their low price and high storage capacity. They are also easily disposed of, making them an environmentally friendly option compared to other disposal methods.
The post provides an overview of the mining process and its associated waste products, known as “tailings.” Tailings can be created at any stage of the mining process but are most commonly created after the ore has been extracted from the earth.
What are mining tailings?
Mining tailings are the residue left after a mine has been closed and all the ore extracted.
Mine tailings can vary in size but are usually composed of crushed rock, metal ore, and water.
Mine tailings can be harmful if they get into the water supply or spilled.
When mining ceases activities at a site, there is typically an enormous amount of waste, from raw materials like coal to products like steel and plastic. The sheer volume of material makes it difficult to transport everything away cleanly and efficiently; instead, mines leave behind large piles of discarded materials called “tailings.”
Tailings are just one type of waste produced by various industries – other examples include:
- Industrial slag (made from melted-down metals).
- Chemical wastes (from factories).
- Nuclear wastes (from nuclear power plants).
Tailings contain valuable minerals such as gold, silver, copper, zinc, etc., so it’s important to manage them once they’ve been generated properly. In some cases – especially when dealing with hazardous materials – this may require special processing or burial for toxins to dissipate safely over time.
How are mine tailings created?
When the mining process is complete, the ore has been separated from the rocks. This is done by crushing it into small pieces called tailings. Tailings are created when the ore is processed. The most common way to process ore is to crush it into small pieces so it can be separated into different minerals.
What is in a mine tailings?
Mining tailings are waste products left over after a mine is cleaned.
Mine wastes can include rocks, clay, sand, and other materials.
After the mining process is complete, these materials must be disposed of in a way that does not pollute the environment.
Mining companies use different methods to dispose of their mine tailings. Some mines dump their tailings into nearby bodies of water or soil; others may burn them as an energy source. But one common method many mines use is depositing the material into large piles called “pits” or “lagoons” and leaving it there for years.
The dangers of mining tailings
The danger posed by mine Tailings comes from two primary sources: accidental release and deliberate disposal.
Accidental releases occur when explosives detonate while being mined, releasing dangerous metals and chemicals into the air or watercourse; such incidents have led to large-scale damage near mining sites and downstream.
Disposal often happens without public notice; this type of pollution occurs when government agencies order corporations to dump toxic substances somewhere they shouldn’t go, like downwind from population centers or major waterways.
What are the benefits of mining tailings?
Mining tailings are the leftover materials after a mineral extraction process. They can be used in various applications, including soil improvement, reduction of environmental pollution, and land reclamation.
There are many benefits to mining tailings:
- Soil Improvement: Mining tailings can improve soil quality by adding organic matter and nutrients. This helps to increase crop yields and decrease the need for fertilizers or pesticides.
- Reduction of Environmental Pollution: Mining operations generate a lot of dust and waste products that pollute air and water resources. Tailing ponds help to collect this waste material, which is then disposed of safely without harming the environment.
- Reclamation of Land: Mining activities can cause significant damage to land ecosystems. Using mining tailings as a supporting substrate makes it possible to rehabilitate these damaged areas into healthy ecosystems again.
Case study: the Mount Polley mine tailings spill
In late August of 2014, the Mount Polley mine in British Columbia released a massive tailings dam breach that sent over 8 million cubic meters of mining waste and water cascading down a valley into the Fraser River. The spill was one of the largest environmental disasters in Canadian history and has had far-reaching consequences for the environment and the economy.
The Mount Polley mine is operated by Imperial Metals (TSX: IMT; NYSE MKT: IMT), one of Canada’s largest copper producers. The company’s primary product is copper concentrate, a byproduct of mining silver and gold ore.
Mining operations at Mount Polley use a process called “flotation,” which involves using water to extract valuable metals from rock particles. Tailings are produced due to this process, composed mainly of soil, rocks, and other debris removed during mining operations.
The Mount Polley mine was originally licensed to produce up to 2 million metric tons per year (mt/year) of tailings; however, due to concerns over potential environmental damage caused by heavy rains washing away toxic materials, the license was later amended to allow for only 1 mt.
Case study: the Baia Mare mine tailings spill
In early August 2014, a tailings dam at the Baia Mare mine in Romania ruptured, releasing an estimated 1.7 million cubic meters (53.5 million cubic feet) of slurry and waste into a local river. The spill caused widespread environmental damage, including the death of fish and amphibians and the contamination of drinking water supplies with heavy metals such as lead and arsenic.
In response to the disaster, mining company Vale SA commissioned Marlin Steel to create a custom wire form for containing the slurry before it reached the river. The goal was to prevent further pollution and ensure that any released contaminants would be contained within the wire form rather than spread throughout the environment.
Marlin’s team quickly assembled a team of engineers and began designing and fabricating the necessary equipment. Using cutting-edge robotics technology, Marlin formed stainless steel wire baskets using three different fabrication processes – chamfering, coining, and swaging – to create tailored forms that fit snugly around each piece of debris. Once complete, Marlin welded each basket together using resistance welding machines to create strong joints that would withstand even extreme conditions.
Case study: the Cerro Grande mining disaster
In December 2015, a tailings dam at the Cerro Grande mining operation in Chile collapsed, releasing more than three million cubic meters (12.5 million cubic feet) of mine waste and water into a nearby river.
The disaster caused widespread environmental damage and displaced more than 5,000 people. As part of its investigation into the cause of the collapse, Chilean authorities requested access to data from Cerro Grande’s mining operations.
Marlin Steel developed an event streaming platform to meet this request that captured real-time data on tailings movements and dam conditions. Using this platform, investigators were able to reconstruct events leading up to the dam’s failure and identify potential safety risks associated with Cerro Grande’s mining operations.
The economic impact of mining tailings
The economic impact of mining tailings depends on several factors, including the type of mine being operated, the size and composition of the mine waste, and the chosen tailings disposal method. Mining companies generally generate two types of tailings: dry (non-aqueous) and wet (aqueous).
Dry tailings can be disposed of using open-pit or underground mines, while wet tailings must be disposed of using either an open-pit or closed-loop system.
Open-pit disposal methods involve placing waste onsite in pits dug into the earth, while closed-loop systems spray waste onto land or water surfaces to form ponds or lakes. The economic impact of mining Tailings also depends on how long it will take to manage them properly.
As you can see, mining tailings is a process that has both positive and negative consequences. While it can help companies achieve their goals faster and more cheaply, it can also create environmental damage and health risks. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before deciding about mining tailings to know what’s worth your time and money.