With the health and safety focus shifting toward tailings storage facilities (TSF), the need for solutions for properly managing tailings is at an all-time high.
An article published by Clean Mining, a part of the Clean Earth Technologies group, describes the danger of tailings dams in various mining sectors, which hold leftover materials used in processing metal (in gold mining, this is often toxic cyanide). Dam failures consistently lead to heavy damage to the environment and nearby communities. The clearest, most recent example of a large-scale incident took place in Brazil last January.
270 lives were lost when the Brumadinho Dam collapsed. The accident also spilled 12 million cubic metres of hazardous waste into the surrounding environment, affecting soil and water supplies across the region.
Mining Review Africa’s Andrew Copeland writes, “prior to these catastrophic events, investors paid little attention to whether a mine or mining company had safe TSF designs, operations, or dormant facilities.” Now they have to, especially since “new guidelines to stability assessments indicate that previously safe TSF’s no longer meet the target factors of safety.”
However, carefully monitored tailings dams with even the most exhaustive safety measures in place are still no surefire remedy. Accidents will continue to happen, even if more mining “CEO’s are asking for more design reviews and operational audits to be done to check that their TSF risks are known and managed.” Unfortunately, TSF health and safety policies are, in reality, a crude band-aid, a temporary fix for symptoms that bely a much deeper issue—the need to use toxic materials to process metals, like gold, in the first place.
Genuinely “clean” alternatives, like the award-winning, non-toxic solution developed by Clean Mining, could pave the way for a renaissance in the mining industry. Not only does their proprietary solution produce less tailings (with the potential to eliminate them altogether) in gold processing, it is versatile and scalable, capable of suiting a wide range of mining operators.
*Source: Mining Review Africa