oa Civil Engineering = Siviele Ingenieurswese - A geosynthetic alternative to traditional sand filter drains in a piggy-back tailings storage facility : geotechnical engineering

Volume 20, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1021-2000



The processing of most mined metal ores results in waste commonly known as tailings. The sheer volume of tailings and their potential environmental impact necessitate engineered disposal techniques and storage facilities. The dam walls for third and fourth generation type facilities are constructed using the tailings themselves for cost effectiveness. These facilities can follow three main construction methods, namely upstream, centreline or downstream development of the walls. Irrespective of the construction technique utilised, the principle is to create a consolidated stable outer annulus to contain the inner saturated, often under-consolidated, core. Creating the consolidated outer annulus is facilitated by the inclusion of filter drains - often called under drains - around the perimeter to draw down and control the phreatic surface emanating from the flow or seepage of pore water from the saturated core. Apart from the aesthetic aspects and their impact on the environment, tailings dams are often extensive in area, sterilising valuable land. Consequently, it is becoming increasingly difficult to license new tailings storage facilities (TSFs).

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