Sorry to trick you with the photo. It’s a picture of blended whiskey. I’m here to chat about blended tailings and waster rock. I just liked the photo.

Let’s go.

Individually, tailings and waste rock usually have some characteristics that could be improved upon.  For example, waste rock often has a high amount of void space between the rock particles, which we geotechnical engineers quantify and express as a void ratio.  Aside from wasting storage volume, this pore space allows for the movement of air and water through the waste rock deposit which can lead to acid rock drainage if the rock is predisposed to generating acid under those conditions.  Tailings, on the other hand, may be liquefiable under certain conditions, such as during or shortly following strong earthquake shaking.

Researchers in the mining world (including this author) have been studying the characteristics and preparation methods for blending tailings and waste rock in proportions where the tailings just fill the voids in the waste rock.  The resulting mix would benefic ially have a low oxygen diffusion potential (and thus a low potential to generate acid rock drainage) and could potentially be non-liquefiable if the deposit is dense enough.  The blended tailings and waste rock may not require a retaining embankment and could be shaped as needed to suit project requirements.

So, what’s the hold up?  What are we waiting for?

Well, so far (publicly, anyway), the large-scale production of this blended material has never been demonstrated to be viable.

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Comments (2)

  1. Amol Chinchankar

    October 4, 2022 at 3:29 pm

    Well written, as always!
    Alfa Laval’s solid bowl centrifuges at three coal washing plants in Australia where they mix the dewatered tailings coming out of the centrifuges with coarse rejects for co-disposal.

    • admin

      October 5, 2022 at 9:48 am

      Sounds very interesting! Also, many thanks for the feedback!

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