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Tailings dams technology: learning from failure (Part 3)

Adriaan Meintjes interviewed by Mining Mirror
Friday, March 8, 2019
First presented:
Civil Engineering
Mine Waste

Part One   |   Part Two


In his third article on tailings storage facilities, Adriaan Meintjes looks at how technology can address the challenges.

In my previous two articles for Mining Mirror on tailings storage facilities (TSFs), I focused firstly on water security and then on safety. This article will look more closely at how technology has evolved with regard to both understanding and addressing the challenges of tailings dams. I will argue that we are in store for exciting times, as advances in technology promise to pave the way to safer and more environmentally sound tailings storage practices.

Certainly, ever-increasing computing power — harnessed by continuously evolving software — has allowed great strides in the field of modelling in soil mechanics, rock mechanics and, by extension, tailings engineering. This will deserve more detail in a moment. However, technology also includes the scientific and engineering methods that must underpin the process of discovery in any discipline. These methods, and how they have recently developed in regard to tailings management, are worth some discussion first. They form the foundation for how we as consultants — along with our fellow-professionals in this discipline — frame the problems we encounter and the solutions we recommend.

In the scientific method, we usually investigate and quantify the laws of nature in a theoretical or applied manner. Considering aspects of a material’s strength, for instance, would draw on theory such as the laws of gravity, as well as on applied mechanics — such as the motion of pendulums and centrifugal forces.

Acknowledged: Mining Mirror and


SRK Africa