HxGN LIVE: Collaboration key to tailings innovation

Mining companies are finally working together to develop solutions for waste and tailings that can be both profitable and improve the environment, but the process needs to accelerate, attendees heard today at autonomous solutions company Hexagon’s HxGN LIVE event in Las Vegas.

Solutions such as Vale’s initiative to turn iron ore waste into sand that can be used in construction, or BHP Tailings Challenge on innovative tailings solutions, are both good examples of what can be achieved, said the panellists.

“Mining is starting to think out of the box when it comes to tailings,” said Abraham Jalbout, CEO of tailings solutions developer Auxilium Technology. “But these plans also highlight that the industry needs a holistic approach. And more collaboration”

Priscilla Nelson, professor and Head of Mining Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines, agreed that “people are starting to put their heads together.”

She pointed to CO2 sequestering with tailings as an emerging field that has hardly been explored.

“Wouldn’t it be great if the mining industry actually became the savior of the world by capturing all its CO2 [in tailings]? “

Jalbout said that the economic benefits of re-processing tailings – or simply approaching their management with a better approach – are often overlooked.

“Miners can see a 20-20% return on reprocessing tailings, they can displace as much as 20% of the CO2 in a project by trapping it in backfill.”

Nelson echoed the sentiment that “re-mining” was an underused resource in today’s mining.

“Too many companies just do not know what is in their tailings, and this is particularly important given the political focus on critical minerals.”

She pointed to the potential of projects that have used electrokinetic dewatering.

However, she said trials using electrokinetic geosynthetics (EKGs) as electrodes for the in situ dewatering of mine tailings need to be expanded into larger, actual projects.


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