Basic facts: What are mine tailings and what is a tailings dam?

WHERE IT HAPPENS: Newcrest Mining Limited's Cadia mine.
WHERE IT HAPPENS: Newcrest Mining Limited's Cadia mine.

IN the wake of Friday’s incident at Newcrest Mining Limited’s Cadia mine many people are asking what tailings and tailings dams are.

Here’s the answers ...

What are mine tailings?

Mine tailings are the materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction from the ore extracted from the earth.

Tailings can be in the form of liquid, solid, or a slurry of fine particles.

In the case of Newcrest Mining Limited’s Cadia mine, tailings are what is left over once the gold and copper has been extracted and processed.

What is a tailings dam?

A tailings dam is typically an earth-fill embankment dam used to store byproducts of mining operations after extracting the sought-after elements.

Conventional water retention dams can serve this purpose, but due to cost, a tailings dam is more viable.

Tailings are pumped into a pond to allow the sedimentation – or separation – of solids from the water.

The water removed from tailings dams can be, and often is, later reused in the mine’s processing cycles.

There are two tailings dams at Newcrest mining Limited’s Cadia mine, known as the southern and northern dams.

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