The three universities recently inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the creation of the facility. It will focus on engineer education to provide the tools to manage tailings responsibly and sustainably, and also to advance best practices for tailings management via engineering research and applied science.
"Recent high-profile tailings incidents have led to concerns about structures' continued viability and acceptability, need for more research in complex soil and tailings mechanics," the group said.
Mines professor Priscilla Nelson added that the management of tailings is an extremely concerning issue for the industry, particularly as operators continue to rely on large-scale extraction of ever-lower grade ore deposits - which produces large amounts of waste.
"We hope that this center of excellence will serve as a center for coordination for all the international efforts that are going on in tailings management. Finding ways to sustainably manage tailings is a matter of social and corporate responsibility," she said.
According to Nelson, tailings dams fail at a rate about 10 times higher than comparable water storage embankments.
The centre's priorities will be to offer online and in-person short courses and workshops in tailings management for current mining professionals and engineers, as well as inter-university certificates in relevant areas of tailings and waste management; serve as a nexus for the dissemination of best practices and industry benchmarks; provide venues for graduate education focused on mine waste to support the development of uniquely qualified tailings engineers; and conduct fundamental and near-term research guided by industry needs.