Goldcorp trials new EcoTails technology

As part of Goldcorp’s Towards Zero Water (H2Zero) initiative which aims to reduce fresh water consumption and eliminate conventional slurry tailings, the company has begun testing a new mine-waste management technology called EcoTails
Goldcorp trials new EcoTails technology Goldcorp trials new EcoTails technology Goldcorp trials new EcoTails technology Goldcorp trials new EcoTails technology Goldcorp trials new EcoTails technology

EcoTails could eliminate the need for tailings storage facilities

Staff reporter

The brainchild of Simon Hille, VP of metallurgy and process, and Mike Jacobs, director of water and tailings at Goldcorp, EcoTails is a new way of thinking about mine waste management and water conservation. It blends filtered tailings with waste rock in transit – creating a geotechnically stable product called GeoWaste, and eliminates the need to keep conventional slurry tailings contained in a dam and submerged in water.

In the GeoWaste, tailings fill the void spaces between waste-rock particles, reducing the opportunity for oxygen flow. When the coarse waste-rock particles and the finer, filtered tailings particles co-mingle, the overall product has improved shear strength and better physical stability, which facilitates mine reclamation.

The results include the elimination of a tailings dam, lower fresh water use, reduced acid rock-drainage, a smaller mine footprint, and less overall risk.

“Co-mingling has been around for a while,” explained Hille. “However, the traditional way of mixing is labour intensive and complex, using multiple mobile machines. Now we’re blending on a conveyance system to harness efficiency of mass material movement. EcoTails sets us up to fundamentally change how we operate in the future, not just for Goldcorp, but for all large-scale operations.”

EcoTails could also offer lower overall costs. Goldcorp envisions scaling-up the technology to make it cost-competitive against the industry standard and at high volumes. Doing so will require processing equipment that is up to 375% larger than what is currently on the market to lower operating costs and streamline maintenance.

Hille is currently overseeing a proof-of-concept study at the Peñasquito mine that will be completed this summer. A full-scale prototype is next, and depending on the results, the possible deployment at the mine.