Exploring the Emerging Field of Tailings Hydrogeology
Tailings hydrogeology is an emerging specialist field driven by a shift in international standards for the design and performance of tailings dams (GISTM). Tailings hydrogeology addresses the foundation conditions both below and away from the facility, in addition to the hydrogeology of the tailings and the dam or impoundment construction materials used.
A working knowledge of tailings dam construction is critical, and includes factors such as dam construction practices, deposition and tailings treatment, filters / drains / decants, water management strategies and instrumentation arrays. Close interaction with design engineers and the client is also needed.
The role of the hydrogeologist in these studies typically addresses performance of the facility (pore pressure understanding in the foundation, the constructed dam and placed tailings) and long term legacy risk associated with potential migration of seepage, which may need predictive design completed and suitable mitigation strategies developed and deployed.
Ground and Water Australia has substantial international tailings hydrogeology experience with the design, performance, closure and forensic analysis of failed TSFs in a range of climatic and geological environments.