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Tailings and water management, innovative solutions to a global issue

In line with our workshop “Tailings and water management, innovative solutions to a global issue”, at the Iron Ore 2017 conference in Perth, Charles Vuillier co-authored a paper with Arash Roshdieh titled “Minimising the water loss associated with mine tailings disposal”. They presented this paper at the Iron Ore 2017 conference in Perth. This paper brings attention to the issue of reducing water resources availability and reliability across mining projects, particularly in arid climates, with a focus on the sensitivity of tailings management system design and operation in improving water supply conditions.

Water is the main constituent for removing impurities from Iron Ore to achieve higher quality. The world population has more than doubled in the last 55 years growing from 3 to 7.5 billion. In the same period of time the crude steel production has increased by almost five folds or approximately from 350 to 1,662 Million tpa. These two trends have expedited a substantial growth of water consumption. Social development in second and third world countries exacerbates this consumption making fresh water an increasingly precious resource due to the overall constant decrease of world fresh water reserves. Regulation is changing quickly across the world and will make access and preservation of water an increasingly more important topic. The mining industry has to adapt to this constant change as well as improving production efficiencies. Tailings dams are the recipient of most of the water used by the process plant. In arid regions where evaporation is high and reserve of water low or non-existent, technical solutions other than the conventional tailings dam, such as thickened and filtered tailings exist to optimise the recovery of water and reduce the need for external water consumption. However, they present challenges such as energy consumption and transport from the process plant to the ultimate storage area. This paper will consider a range of thickening and filtration alternatives covering thickening and filtering plant, transport and storage system, water return, closure and rehabilitation. In particular we focus on the fact that good tailings management can contribute significantly to improving resilience with a focus on Iron Ore projects and water preservation

Please contact Charles Vuillier (charlesv@atcwilliams.com.au) if you would like a copy of the paper.