Approaches to Management of Mine Waste Rock


Mr John Cunning

Mining a resource generates mine wastes, including overburden, rock and tailings, which are required to be managed in nearby storage facilities. Many mines produce water that needs to be managed in water management facilities; the mine’s processing plant also requires water to process the resource, and much of this water becomes part of the tailings waste stream. Management of mine waste rock and mine water can be big costs to a mining project. Open pit mining can generate large waste rock facilities and the designs for mine waste rock facilities should be carried out in stages along with the all the other components that make up the project. Design of a mine waste rock facility needs to consider site geology, geotechnical and hydrogeological conditions, with the design confidence being improved as level of study and level of knowledge increases with project stage. As much as possible, designs should be advanced such that the management of waste rock can provide benefits or cost savings to the project. This should be possible when mine waste management planning is integrated with mine planning and development by considering how the project can make best use of waste rock, tailings, or site water throughout operations. Emerging technologies, such as co-disposal of waste rock with the tailings stream, may provide further benefit to project economics through the reduction of environmental impact and geotechnical liability. After mining is complete, the site will be closed, and while closure is often far along in the project timeline, decisions in the design of mine waste management made even at the conceptual stage can be reduce closure and surety costs, leading to improved project economics. This presentation will discuss approaches to the management of mine waste rock as part of an overall mining project study as it relates to project economics.