Mine waste geotechnique
You would probably think that mining is mostly about mining the ore. Well it is. But, it turns out that if you look at how many people are doing what around a mine (particularly an open pit mine), you might be surprised to see that most people are more involved with mine waste than the orebody. And the same holds for mine geotechnical engineers — probably 90% of us are involved in mine waste.
The reason? Partly that most mines have a high ratio of waste to ore, often ten times. And the waste rock, stored in large dumps, often generates contaminated water (often acid rock drainage). And the tailings (the ground up ore with the economic minerals extracted) is typically slurried out to the far reaches of the mine site where it also needs quite a lot of geotechnical design and geochemical help. And the mining sprawl (the ratio of the area of mining disturbance to the pit boundaries) is often 2 to 4, so there is a lot of area to monitoring, regrade, cover, and revegetate — also keeping a lot of people busy.
Topics in mine waste geotechnique broadly include:
- Dump site investigation, design, construction, regarding, reclamation, water management and water treatment
- Tailings dam site investigation, design, construction, regarding, reclamation, water management and water treatment
- Tailings management (planning, containment, deposition, monitoring, covering, reclamation, soft tailings)
- Site water management (water management, design, construction, operation, water treatment, closure)
- Roads, access, and infrastructure
- Stakeholder engagement and permitting
- Landform design and closure planning
Here are some photos from various mine’s that I’ve visited on conference tours over the past 25 years that illustrate the breadth of mine waste geotechnique…