Volume 44, N. 3, Special Issue: Unsaturated Soils (Invited Editors: T.M.P. Campos, F.A.M. Marinho, G.F.N. Gitirana Jr.), July-September, in Progress, 2021 | PDF(13 downloads)
Filtered tailings is the disposal technology that is most likely to yield an unsaturated state of the tailings. Such state has important benefits. A dam to contain the mine wastes is no longer needed, the risk of polluting seepage is minimized, and liquefaction of tailings is prevented. Filtering also allows most of the water mixed with the tailings to be recovered and reused in the process. The resulting material can be handled with traditional soil moving equipment to form a stack, for instance. While the idea is simple, the multiple phenomena involved in the tailings unsaturated disposal make up a complex process. The present work is based on a case study, the Casposo Mine filtered tailings disposal facility, located in the central Andes of Argentina. Throughout ten years of operation, a series of field and laboratory studies have been carried out to characterize the phenomena that intervene in the disposal of filtered tailings. Two stages were studied in detail: air drying upon tailings discharge and tailings compression under the weight of the subsequent lifts of the stack. Flocculant agents were found to have an outstanding influence in the tailings behaviour. Because of the multiple influencing factors, the process outcome (namely, the tailings water content and their void ratio) is highly variable. To deal with such variability, projects must include enough redundancy. In this regard, the case study’s incorporation of waste rock layers interspersed between tailings layers was a successful experience.