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Dewatering options for management of fine gold tailings in Western Australian Goldfields

Juan Jose Moreno, Sam Kendall and Andres Ortiz
Friday, April 13, 2018
First presented: 
21st International Seminar on Paste and Thickened Tailings, 2018
Published paper
Mine Waste
Typical tailings disposal systems in the Western Australian Goldfields consist of tailings paddock facilities, where tailings are discharged either from a single outlet or from spigots around a ring dyke.  Upstream raising and central decanting of supernatant water is common practice.
Potential evaporation in this region is high, at around 2 m per year, with summer months accounting for more than half of the evaporation. This presents a challenge in maintaining a steady rate of water recovery from the facility’s pond throughout the year, especially if large shallow ponds are formed. This generates a variable fresh water demand that may not be easy to satisfy if availability of a constant source is limited.
Dewatering tailings prior to disposal may prove a good alternative since, if correctly designed, a reasonably steady flow with consistent reduced water content can be expected from the thickeners or filters. Nonetheless, there is a perception that dewatering could add significant capital expenditure and complexity to the project.
The current development of both thickening and filtration technologies, along with the increased number of technology providers,  has reduced the capital and operating cost significantly over the last few years. This, combined with the benefit of improving water recovery, can make thickening and filtration options viable for gold processing plants handling relatively low throughputs.
As a case study, an evaluation of alternative tailings water recovery systems for a gold mine project in the Goldfields region was undertaken. The objective was to determine the optimal tailings water management strategy for the project. The most important aspects evaluated were capital costs and water supply. This paper presents the conclusions of the evaluation and incorporates additional aspects such as landform development, closure and environmental impacts.

Feature Author

Pepe Moreno

Juan Moreno has more than 25 years of diversified professional experience in projects mainly associated with geotechnical/ geoenvironmental engineering for the mining and civil industries throughout the world. Pepe is typically involved as team leader conducting conceptual to detailed engineering for mine waste facilities, including design of tailings disposal systems using a wide range of dewatering levels, waste rock dumps, and effluents containment. His experience covers from site investigation to closure design including advanced modelling for dam break analyses and water balance and geotechnical design for tailings facilities, heap leach pads, ponds and waste rock dumps. Pepe provides expert review for tailings and waste management for due diligence and peer review projects for banks and potential investors.

Principal Consultant (Mine Waste)
Civil Eng, MIEAust, CPEng, RPEQ
SRK Perth
SRK North America