As technology advances to handle increasing volumes of tailings, experts recommend periodic reviews of TSF operations and options to maintain efficiency and safety

By Russell A. Carter, Contributing Editor

If visual prominence is an indication of status on typical plant flowsheets, tailings rank below even the least valuable byproduct. The vague “To tailings…” box at the bottom right of most process diagrams says it all — get this material out of the plant quickly and store it somewhere, preferably as cheaply as possible.

However, the industry’s approach toward tailings is changing, influenced by regulatory scrutiny, societal concerns and an expanding awareness by producers that tailings management involves decisions relating to many of the same resources — water, land and energy, for example —used in primary metals production. And, because each of these resources carries a monetary value, improvements in tailings management may present opportunities to cut costs and reduce capital expenditure. In rough mathematical terms, better tailings management ≈ money.
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