Today, the International Council on Minerals and Metals (ICMM) has published a Tailings Reduction Roadmap which, it says, lays out innovative approaches and solutions capable of significantly reducing tailings from the mine life cycle, as part of a broader Tailings Innovation Initiative.
The initiative brings together a third of the global mining and metals industry to collaborate with technology innovators, including suppliers and academia, to accelerate technology for reducing tailings waste and to explore the potential to eliminate it in the long term, the ICMM says.
The Tailings Reduction Roadmap sets out short- and long-term technology options. These include mature solutions that can be implemented in the short term, such as coarse particle flotation technology to enhance the recovery of coarser particles of ore that have traditionally been seen as waste, and solutions with the potential to reduce tailings in more significant quantities, but that will require further development over the next 10-15 years, such as higher precision mining and artificial intelligence.
Developed through a series of engagements between technology suppliers, innovators and ICMM members, the roadmap offers strategic direction to the mining industry on how to accelerate the development and adoption of technologies to reduce tailings, the ICMM says. It addresses technological challenges, such as testing new technology on a different range of ore characteristics, as well as enabling factors, including business case and regulatory requirements, in parallel.
ICMM members are already piloting technologies laid out in the roadmap that match their commodities and site characteristics, so that learnings can be applied to solutions that can be scaled up to benefit the whole industry.
Rohitesh Dhawan, CEO of ICMM, said: “Catastrophic tailings failures in recent years including at South Africa’s Jagersfontein mine just last week have brought into sharp focus the need for urgent action to produce less tailings as we supply the metals and minerals that are critical for the energy transition and sustainable development. If we continue to use traditional production processes, we run the risk of multiplying tailings waste many times over. There is no easy solution, and we will continue to need tailings storage facilities into the future. However, this initiative signals our clear intent to act with urgency and purpose to find ways of minimising or potentially eliminating waste at every stage of the mining cycle.
“Work has already begun, but if we are to match our ambition, we need to work collaboratively in accelerating the types of breakthroughs that can be adopted widely in any existing or future operations around the world. Our ambition is that ICMM’s Tailings Reduction Roadmap and wider Tailings Innovation Initiative will help to identify and accelerate opportunities for wider collaboration and serve as a catalyst for advancing more partnerships between industry and technology innovators on piloting these technologies.”