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The future of tailings

Published by , Editorial Assistant
Global Mining Review,

In recent times, tailings processing has become a critical aspect of mining operations globally, with an increased focus on water recovery, safety and sustainability. Combined with the stringent accountability that mine operators have to local communities, tailings management is now a significant consideration, with processing requirements and technology changing rapidly.

Traditionally involved in the pumping of tailings, company Weir Minerals has entered this area to encompass the entire tailings process. This extension into the tailings processing field means the company is now involved in the production of the material, as opposed to only transporting it.

This approach is a departure from the industry practice of sourcing components from multiple suppliers, which can be challenging to integrate. The company’s research and development allow it to provide a spectrum of tailings management options. This involves assessing the variations in capital and operating expenditure along with the overall and long term benefits of each, providing a truly customised solution. Prior to implementation, rigorous testing and trials are conducted to assess viability and performance ahead of final selection, detailed design and engineering, delivery and commissioning.

Dewatering involves removing liquid from waste slurry so that the remaining solids can be deposited in a tailings storage facility or returned to the site from which it was mined as backfill. There are several dewatering methods to render waste slurry to differing degrees of dryness, ready for transport from the plant to the deposition site. Any liquid recovered through dewatering is returned for reuse in the process.

“Weir Minerals can provide a variety of processing systems including equipment and infrastructure to achieve the final tailings product that is required by the customer, from thickening to create a paste or applying a filter to produce a product which can be dry deposited. As tailings management evolves, the industry is moving towards the latter for increased safety and stability, and in the process maximising water recovery,” stated Essack.

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