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IMPROVING ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT IN GOLD AND COPPER MINING: INTEGRATING LESSONS LEARNED FROM TAILINGS AND HEAP LEACH MANAGEME

Por: Carlos Cacciuttolo Vargas, Universidad Católica de Temuco, Chile. 


Abstract

Today, efficient process water management and physical stability of the facilities are a priority need in tailings dams and heap leach pads. Given the recent occurrence of failures at some tailings storage facilities around the world, resulting in severe environmental contamination and social impacts, safer options are required. This has led to a stricter perception of the authority and community for mining waste and leach pad management focused on caring for the environment, promoting the implementation of the best technologies available today.

This review highlights cases of past adverse tailings and heap leach management situations and provides experiences and lessons for improving the practice of more environmentally friendly design of these facilities. Experience has shown that knowledge of mining processes should not only focus on technical and economic efficiency, but also integrate the controlled and adequate management of inputs (reagents) and wastes (tailings, leach pads) with the environment, both in their spatial distribution and their evolution over time.

Finally, this technical paper presents the contribution of a series of successful experiences in Peru in tailings management and heap leach management that have deployed new emerging technologies for the reduction of negative environmental impacts, focusing mainly on the following issues: (i) increased recovery of process water, (ii) reduction of the facilities' footprint in impacted areas, (iii) reduction of the risk of physical instability, and (iv) reduction of leaks in the facilities.

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