Editor's note: June 2023

Speaking to the various companies involved in tailings management solutions this month has revealed that underground, above-ground and celestial technologies can all play a revolutionary role in tailings innovation.
Editor's note: June 2023 Editor's note: June 2023 Editor's note: June 2023 Editor's note: June 2023 Editor's note: June 2023

Tailings remediation work in Peru

Satellite monitoring in particular is emerging as a remarkable tool in the stars that can enhance safety and environmental compliance in tailings management.

Thanks to high-resolution satellite imagery and remote sensing technologies, mining companies can now closely monitor their tailings storage facilities, ensuring they meet those ever more stringent environmental regulations, and identify potential risks.

Because InSAR enables the detection of tiny changes in surface topography, vegetation health, and water bodies near mining, mining companies can not only identify early warning signs of instability, leakage, or contamination, but also protect nearby ecosystems and ensure the safety of the communities residing in the vicinity.

Dry stack filtering is also increasingly enabling mining companies to minimise their environmental footprint on the ground, as well as conserve precious water resources, and reduce the long-term liability of tailings storage. 

Holistic healing

Dry stack filtering reduces the volume of tailings, making it easier to monitor and manage storage facilities effectively. Moreover, the reduced water content in dry stack tailings simplifies satellite monitoring, allowing for clearer imagery and more accurate data analysis.

Beyond safety and monitoring, we also learn this month about tailings valorisation. The process of extracting additional value from the waste materials by transforming tailings into usable products is also seeing huge advances thanks to collaboration between academics and mining firms.

The valorisation approach of course not only reduces waste but also provides an additional revenue stream for mining operations or more preferably, surrounding communities.

A great example is an article that explains how Canadian researchers are exploring techniques to enhance natural weathering processes at mine sites to capture more carbon and recover residual metals.

Using microbes, Dr Jeanine McCutcheon and Dr Ian Power are developing a technique to retrieve critical metals from tailings while also capturing carbon dioxide.

Where it gets really exciting is the potential integration of all these technologies. Mining companies can achieve optimal efficiency and safety in tailings management by combining dry stack filtering with satellite monitoring and valorisation.

Pursuing a holistic approach will enable mining companies to proactively address potential issues such as structural stability, seepage, or environmental contamination, thereby ensuring the overall safety and sustainability of their operations.