Comparison of surface and underground disposal of tailings waste

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 87, No. 976, 1994

F.P. Hassani, M. Hossein, P. Newman, Department of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, and D. Bois, Unite de Recherche et de Service en Technologic Minerale de rAbitibi-Temiscamingue, Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec

A growing environmental awareness has prompted the mineral industry to seek innovations in waste management and technology. It is estimated that over 500 million metric tonnes of solid waste each year are rejected by the Canadian mineral industry. This waste has to be disposed of in the most environmentally and economically acceptable manner. An extensive study has been conducted to estimate the cost of implementing total tailings fill from a waste disposal point-of-view as an alternative to large-scale surface disposal of tailings. The cost of waste disposal at the surface (tailings pond), and underground (total tailings fill) for three Canadian mines which have taken part in Quebec Mine Survey conducted in 1992 are analyzed. Surface disposal is the most economical and common method of mine waste disposal in Canada. Total tailings backfill as a method of waste disposal is technically feasible but cannot be regarded as more economic than surface disposal in all cases. It is important to remember that while surface disposal costs are rising, due to tighter legislation and more environmental pressure on governments; the costs of preparing and placing total tailings backfill is still falling as the technology improves.
Keywords: Rock mechanics, Tailings disposal, Waste management.