Process Water Management and Seepage Control in Tailings Storage Facilities: Engineered Environmental Solutions Applied in Chile and Peru
1.1. Environmental Issues Related to Tailings Storage Facilities
- Safe storage of mine tailings, process water, and rainfall water;
- Mitigating leakage from the TSF through the dam and adjacent zones, for environmental care of soils, and ground water;
- Controlling internal dam erosion (piping issues);
- Providing filter and drainage capacity of the dam;
- Improving the long-term physical and geochemical stability of the TSF (operation closure and post closure), considering severe seismic activity and potential extreme floods.
1.2. Aim of the Article
2. Process Water Management and Seepage Control in Tailings Storage Facilities
2.1. Seepages in Tailings Storage Facilities
2.2. Seepage Control
2.2.1. Geomembrane Liners
- Management of Gold Tailings Storage Facilities
- Management of Copper Tailings Storage Facilities
2.2.2. Cutoff Trench, Slurry Walls, and Grout Curtain Systems
- Perforations: The perforations for the injection curtain will be made with rotary-percussion equipment or rotary probes, in the places established in the project, always using clear water as a lubricating and dragging fluid. Its minimum diameter in rock will be 50 mm for rotary percussion and HQ3 for rotation with core extraction. To cross the fluvial fill, the drilling must consider the placement of casing pipes to the rock and thus ensure a controlled injection process;
- Water: The water used in the injection works, which may be available in the area or brought from another place, must be clean, with a pH close to neutral and comply with the standard established for mixing water for cement mortars and Portland concrete;
- Cement: The cement used in injections must be pozzolanic in order to guarantee its resistance to the aggression of contact waters, have a Blaine specific surface of the order of 5000, must not present lumps or foreign matter, and have a manufacturing age of less than three months;
- Bentonite: The bentonite to be used must be sodium and have a liquid limit greater than 250% and a plasticity index greater than 200%.
2.2.3. Slimes (Fine Fraction of Mine Tailings)
3. Types of Geotextile and Geomembrane Used in Tailings Storage Facility Dams
3.1. Geosynthetic Base Layer—Geotextiles
3.2. Geosynthetic Liner Layer—Geomembranes
3.3. Geomembrane Liner Leakage Rates
4. Geosynthetic Solution Applications in Tailings Storage Facility Dams
4.1. Geosynthetic Constructability Issues
4.2. Starter Dams of TSF Built with Borrow Materials
4.3. Cycloned Tailings Sand Dams
- Dispose of hydrocyclone underflow materials (cycloned tailings sand) in a loose 0.5 m thick layer;
- Allow the deposited hydrocyclone underflow materials to drain;
- Compact the underflow materials with smooth vibratory rollers;
- Construct the geometry of the dam (slopes and crest width, providing adequate freeboard);
- Install the waterproofing liner at the upstream face of the dam.
- Is necessary to install a new wooden structure to assemble the sand transport pipes;
- The louver discharge pipe must be relocated;
- An anchor trench for the geosynthetic materials must be built along the entire crest of the dam;
- A new roll of geotextile and geomembrane needs to be installed on the slope upstream of the dam.
- A typical cycloned tailings sand dam crest with wooden trestles for tailings sand pipelines, slimes pipeline with spigots, and geosynthetic liner (Figure 20);
- A geosynthetic installation schematic view of a cycloned tailings sand dam using the downstream construction method (Figure 21);
- A construction procedure in cycloned tailings sand dam crest (Figure 22).
4.4. Mine Waste Rock (Rockfill) Dams
- The mining waste rock materials have no potential to generate AMD (acid mine drainage);
- There is a lack of borrow material availability and high waste rock/ore ratios;
- There are short hauling distances between the waste rock sources and the TSF site;
- There are flatter terrains, such as in the Atacama Desert areas, where mines need to build TSFs with a ring-dike configuration with large dams (more than 4 km long). This presents difficulties regarding transport and construction of cycloned tailings sand dams.
5.1. Lessons Learned Considering Experience
- No use of clay layers: geotextiles and geomembranes allow a chance to minimize the use of costly clay soil filter materials in the dam. The geomembrane lining system is adequate, because it is flexible and resists differential settlement, allowing control of the hydraulic gradients, and providing both physical and environmental containment of tailings [46,47,48];
5.2. New Trends
- Resistance to aggressive environments even without adding an anti-puncture geotextile;
- Compatible with all subgrades and covering material (hot-mix, asphalt, concrete, stone, gravel);
- Excellent resistance to ageing (UV, weather, biological agents and oxidation);
- Suitable for extreme weather conditions (rain, wind, extreme cold (–40 °C));
- Remarkable dimensional stability and flexibility guaranteeing permanent support with the supporting ground;
- Durability under real conditions exceeding 40 years;
- Friction angle up to 34°, greater than any other geomembrane;
- Figure 26 shows an example of application of BGM in the Toromocho TSF project in Peru.
5.3. Hydrogeological Aspects to Note
5.4. Final Remarks
- Types of geosynthetic materials: many types of geomembranes have been used in TSFs, including: polyvinyl chloride (PVC), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and linear-low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). The criteria for the selection of the geosynthetics are based on technical environmental and cost issues;
- Thickness and performance of geosynthetics: the current state-of-the-art practices to prevent leakage, to provide durability, and to enhance resistance to UV rays;
- Types of cushion layers for geosynthetic materials: the criteria used to choose materials on which to place geomembranes, with a focus on limiting damage by puncturing;
- Constructability: a key aspect is the installation of the geosynthetics on the upstream face slope of the tailings dams, taking into consideration the mine tailings discharges (spigots), wind, and rainfall conditions;
- QA/QC: quality assurance and quality control—the geosynthetic quality is monitored at all stages of design, manufacturing, construction, and operation;
- Sustainability: the application of geosynthetics is environmentally friendly because (i) they minimize the environmental impacts of borrow material pits and quarry operations by providing filters, grading the materials in the dam, and (ii) they mitigate tailings dam seepage.
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
|TSF||Tailings storage facility|
|BATs||Best available technologies|
|AMD||Acid mine drainage|
|Cw||Slurry tailings solids content by weight|
|mtpd||Metric tonnes per day|
|HDPE||High density polyethylene|
|LLDPE||Linear low-density polyethylene|
|GCL||Geosynthetic clay liner|
|masl||Meters above sea level|
|UV rays||Ultraviolet rays|
|QA/QC||Quality assurance and quality control|
|MQA/MQC||Manufacturing quality assurance/control|
|CQA/CQC||Construction quality assurance/control|
|lphd||Liter per hectare per day|
|lpd||Liter per day|
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|Tailings Storage Facility Name||Mine Name||Country||Tailings Production Rate (mtpd)||Dam Construction Material||Projected Dam Height (m)|
|Los Leones||Andina||Chile||Closure Phase||Borrow material||160|
|Pampa Pabellon||Collahuasi||Chile||170,000||Mine waste rock||90|
|Talabre||Chuquicamata||Chile||200,000||Mine waste rock||50|
|Los Quillayes||Los Pelambres||Chile||Closure Phase||Cycloned tailings sand||198|
|El Mauro||Los Pelambres||Chile||205,000||Cycloned tailings sand||237|
|Ovejeria||Andina||Chile||75,000||Cycloned tailings sand||130|
|Las Tortolas||Los Bronces||Chile||125,000||Cycloned tailings sand||150|
|Pampa Austral||Salvador||Chile||35,000||Borrow material||36|
|Caren||El Teniente||Chile||180,000||Borrow material||70|
|Quebrada Blanca||Quebrada Blanca Phase II||Chile||140,000||Cycloned tailings sand||310|
|La Brea||Caserones||Chile||50,000||Borrow material||248|
|Candelaria||Candelaria||Chile||Closure Phase||Mine waste rock||160|
|Los Diques||Candelaria||Chile||75,000||Mine waste rock||156|
|Andacollo||Carmen de Andacollo||Chile||55,000||Mine waste rock||150|
|Quebrada Linga||Cerro Verde||Peru||240,000||Cycloned tailings sand||305|
|Quebrada Enlozada||Cerro Verde||Peru||Closure Phase||Cycloned tailings sand||200|
|Quebrada Ayash||Antamina||Peru||145,000||Mine waste rock||265|
|Las Bambas||Las Bambas||Peru||140,000||Mine waste rock||220|
|Constancia||Constancia||Peru||90,000||Mine waste rock||170|
|Quebrada Honda||Cuajone and Toquepala||Peru||150,000||Cycloned tailings sand||180|
|Quebrada Cortadera||Quellaveco||Peru||127,500||Cycloned tailings sand||300|
|QuebradaTunshuruco||Toromocho||Peru||140,000||Mine waste rock||245|
|Properties of Material||Test|
|Unit of Measure||Required Value||Required Value|
|Weight Per Area Unit||ASTM D5261||g/m2 (oz/yd2)||≥335 (10)||≥180 (6)|
|Apparent Opening Size, Sieve No.||ASTM D4751||mm||≤0.15||≤0.21|
|Grab Tensile Strength||ASTM D4632||N||≥1110||≥600|
|Grab Elongation||ASTM D4632||%||≥50||≥50|
|Puncture Strength||ASTM D4833||N||≥665||≥350|
|Trapezoidal Tear||ASTM D4533||N||≥445||≥240|
|Flow Rate||ASTM D4491||l/min/m2||≤3100||≤4500|
|UV Resistance (after 500 h)||ASTM D4355||%||≥70||≥70|
|Properties of Material||Test Method||Unit of Measure||Required Value|
|Thickness||ASTM D5199||mm (mil)||≥1.5 (60)|
|Strength at Yield||ASTM D6693||N/mm||≥22|
|Strength at Break||ASTM D6693||N/mm||≥40|
|Elongation at Yield||ASTM D6693||%||≥12|
|Elongation at Break||ASTM D6693||%||≥700|
|Tear Resistance||ASTM D1004||N||≥186|
|Oxidative Induction Time||ASTM D3895||Min||≥100|
|Carbon Black Content||ASTM D1603||%||2.0–3.0|
|Foundation Conditions (α)||Liner|
Bedding Soil (β)
|Effective Normal Stress (MPa) (σ)|
|σ < 0.5||0.5 < σ < 1.2||σ > 1.2|
|Firm or High Stiffness||Coarse grained||Coarse grained Fine grained||2.0 mm HDPE|
1.5 mm HDPE
|2.0 mm HDPE|
2.0 mm HDPE
|2.5 mm HDPE|
2.5 mm HDPE
|Fine grained||Coarse grained Fine grained||1.5 mm HDPE|
1.0 mm HDPE
|1.5 mm HDPE|
1.5 mm HDPE
|2.0 mm HDPE|
2.0 mm HDPE
|Soft or Low Stiffness||Coarse grained||Coarse grained Fine grained||2.0 mm LLDPE|
1.5 mm LLDPE
|2.0 mm LLDPE|
2.0 mm LLDPE
|2.5 mm LLDPE|
2.5 mm LLDPE
|Fine grained||Coarse grained Fine grained||2.0 mm LLDPE|
1.5 mm LLDPE
|2.0 mm LLDPE|
2.0 mm LLDPE
|2.5 mm LLDPE|
2.5 mm LLDPE
|Water Depth on Top of the Geomembrane, hw|
|Coefficient of Migration, mg (m2/s)||0||9 × 10−20||9 × 10−18||9 × 10−16||9 × 10−14||3 × 10−13|
|Unitized leakage rate, qg||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|(m/s)||0||9 × 10−17||9 × 10−15||9 × 10−13||9 × 10−11||3 × 10−10|
|(lphd)||0||8 × 10−5||0.008||0.8||80||260|
|(gpad)||0||8 × 10−6||0.0008||0.08||8||28|
|Water Depth on Top of the Geomembrane, hw|
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Cacciuttolo, C.; Pastor, A.; Valderrama, P.; Atencio, E. Process Water Management and Seepage Control in Tailings Storage Facilities: Engineered Environmental Solutions Applied in Chile and Peru. Water 2023, 15, 196. https://doi.org/10.3390/w15010196
Cacciuttolo C, Pastor A, Valderrama P, Atencio E. Process Water Management and Seepage Control in Tailings Storage Facilities: Engineered Environmental Solutions Applied in Chile and Peru. Water. 2023; 15(1):196. https://doi.org/10.3390/w15010196Chicago/Turabian Style
Cacciuttolo, Carlos, Alvar Pastor, Patricio Valderrama, and Edison Atencio. 2023. "Process Water Management and Seepage Control in Tailings Storage Facilities: Engineered Environmental Solutions Applied in Chile and Peru" Water 15, no. 1: 196. https://doi.org/10.3390/w15010196