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Since the beginning of the modern mining industry, there have been hundreds of tailings collapses, slides, and floods.
Mining is full of materials that are not the ore or mineral being targeted for excavation.
With so many challenges to storing and containing tailings in the long run, it is important to choose a liner that can handle the material.
Mine tailings may be produced in the thousands of tons per mine, but they are not all uniform in their characteristics.
Tailings are a potentially hazardous material, depending on the exact content of the material and what was being mined during its production.
Modern mining operations may produce thousands of tons of tailings after the ore is removed and processed for valuable materials.
Whether kept relatively dry and heaped or mixed as a sludge and pumped into a pond, tailings are generally contained by impoundments.
While there are many other materials that can risk human health or cause environmental damage, tailings are among the most challenging to contain.
Tailings ponds contain toxic materials that won’t ever go away, and yet they must survive earthquakes, erosion and intense weather events, perhaps for hundreds, or even thousands of years.
Site conditions, topography and environmental factors all play critical roles in determining the type and placement of a tailings storage facility.
At first blush, tailings ponds are fairly simple structures that hold tailings and enough water to cover them completely, which makes ponds one of the most cost-effective and widely used storage options.
The term tailings refers to the residue that’s left after the usable materials have been recovered.
The first step in processing raw ore is reducing the rocks and various chunks to small, uniform sizes.
Mining and, indeed, ore processing have been around for thousands of years, with evidence of lead smelting discovered as early as 4000 BCE in the Fertile Crescent.