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Applied Geochemistry 51 (2014) 229–245

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Mine tailings dams: Characteristics, failure, environmental impacts,
and remediation
D. Kossoff a,b, W.E. Dubbin b, M. Alfredsson c, S.J. Edwards d, M.G. Macklin e,f, K.A. Hudson-Edwards a,⇑
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet St., London WC1E 7HX, UK
Department of Earth Sciences, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK
School of Physical Sciences, Ingram Building, University of Kent, Canterbury CT2 7NH, UK
Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Centre, Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, Department of Earth Sciences, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
Centre for Catchment and Coastal Research and River Basin Dynamics and Hydrology Research Group, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth
University, Ceredigion SY23 3DB, UK
Innovative River Solutions, Institute of Agriculture and Environment, Massey University, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: On a global scale demand for the products of the extractive industries is ever increasing. Extraction of the
Available online 7 October 2014 targeted resource results in the concurrent production of a significant volume of waste material, includ-
Editorial handling by M. Kersten ing tailings, which are mixtures of crushed rock and processing fluids from mills, washeries or concentra-
tors that remain after the extraction of economic metals, minerals, mineral fuels or coal. The volume of
tailings is normally far in excess of the liberated resource, and the tailings often contain potentially haz-
ardous contaminants. A priority for a reasonable and responsible mining organization must be to proac-
tively isolate the tailings so as to forestall them from entering groundwaters, rivers, lakes and the wind.
There is ample evidence that, should such tailings enter these environments they may contaminate food
chains and drinking water. Furthermore, the tailings undergo physical and chemical change after they
have been deposited. The chemical changes are most often a function of exposure to atmospheric oxida-
tion and tends to make previously, perhaps safely held contaminants mobile and available. If the tailings
are stored under water, contact with the atmosphere is substantially reduced, thereby forestalling oxy-
gen-mediated chemical change. It is therefore accepted practice for tailings to be stored in isolated
impoundments under water and behind dams. However, these dams frequently fail, releasing enormous
quantities of tailings into river catchments. These accidents pose a serious threat to animal and human
health and are of concern for extractive industries and the wider community. It is therefore of importance
to understand the nature of the material held within these dams, what best safety practice is for these
structures and, should the worst happen, what adverse effects such accidents might have on the wider
environment and how these might be mitigated. This paper reviews these factors, covering the character-
istics, types and magnitudes, environmental impacts, and remediation of mine tailings dam failures.
Ó 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
2. Tailings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
2.1. Definition of tailings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
2.2. Physical properties of tailings. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231
2.3. Chemistry of tailings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231
2.4. Mineralogy of tailings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231
3. Storage of tailings in dammed impoundments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232
4. Causes of tailings dam failures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 233
5. Environmental impacts of tailings dam failures. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235
5.1. Immediate (hours to months) impacts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235

⇑ Corresponding author. Tel.: +44 (0)203 073 8030.
E-mail address: (K.A. Hudson-Edwards).
0883-2927/Ó 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Conclusions. . . . . . . . aeroplanes. . .and longer-term effects peak metal production is surpassed. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . mineral fuels or coal from the mine The mining industry does. . . employs more than 10 million people Tailings are mixtures of crushed rock and processing fluids from worldwide and results in widespread environmental and health mills. . . . . . . . . The word ‘tailings’ is order of magnitude as that of fundamental Earth-shaping geologi. 2004). . . . . 237 5. .2. . .. . . . . . washeries or concentrators that remain after the extraction problems (Hilson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The chief waste stream is tailings. . . . . coal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . as the point of this paper we review the short-. . . . . . . Remediation of tailings dam failures . for dam failures. Azapagic. . . . . . . . . . . The amount of mine waste produced is of the same Wolkersdorfer. . . . . . . . and to mine managers and environmental vides direct employment to over 40 million people. . . . . Photo and photomicrograph of tailings. . . . 242 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . some several thousand million tonnes per year (Fyfe. uranium and 1981. . . . . . . To set the scene. .g. . . . .to longer-term (years to centuries) impacts . . . . support for c. . . On a smaller. . . . which are vital components in. . . . . . 240 7. We conclude with a dis- Modern society could not function without the products of the cussion of currently-used remediation measures taken following extractive mining industries. . . 1a. . . . . . . minerals. . . . . . . . (b) Bolivian mine tailings primary phases undergoing cementation by secondary jarosite following three years of column leaching experiments (described in Kossoff et al. . . . . Economic impacts of tailings dam failures . . . . generic as it describes the by-product of several extractive indus- cal processes. 1. . 237 6. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . example. . . . . . . . . . and the common causes of their failure. . . . . . . . Introduction characteristics of tailings and of construction of tailings dams. . 242 Acknowledgements . . . tal effects of mine waste.1. (c) mining area at Berkeley. . however. (a) Grey sulphide tailings in stream flowing through town of Huanuni. . with The ratio of tailings to concentrate is commonly very high. . . . . of economic metals. . . . . medium. . . . . we first describe the ore is an established long-term trend (Mason et al. oil sands. . . . . . This review will be of use to researchers studying the environmen- metals and paint. . . computers. . . . . . 2010). . . . in areas where these might otherwise be limited (e. In erally around 200:1 (Lottermoser. . . . . and indirect scientists evaluating their impacts. . . . . . .g. . 2010). . . . . Tailings nities and social improvements. . . . . . often stored in impoundments behind dams. . . . . . Contamination of water . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . which are precious and base metals. . . . . . the extraction of lower grade of these impacts. . . . . . . Lottermoser.. . construction materials. Fig. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . tries. . .230 D. . . . 2007). . . . . . . .2. . . . . mining companies provide local employment opportu. . . . . . . . . the mining industry also pro. . . . . . resource (e. . . . Contamination of soils and sediments . Moreover. . . . However. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2007). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2012b). . . . . . . . . . . . . . human health and economic impacts. . . Bolivia. . . . .2. . . . . . 237 5. . / Applied Geochemistry 51 (2014) 229–245 5. . 241 8. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hudson-Edwards et al. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2001. . . . . . . . .. . . 1999). . . . . 2004. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Definition of tailings rural Australia. . . . . .. . . . including those for aluminium. . . . . unregulated artisanal mining. . . . . . . . . . . . . 2006). . . . . 2. . . . . For Fig.1. . . On a global scale. . . . . Montana. . . . which can fail. . 242 References . . . . . . . gen- ensuing environmental. ceramics. . . . . . . . particularly for gold. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Medium. such as the provision of medical facilities. . . . USA. . . . . . . . . . . Grey tailings are stored in the tailings pond shown to the left of the dark-coloured Berkeley Pit (image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory). . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..2. . . . . . . . . . . . 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Younger and umes of waste. . . . Cheshire. . . but nevertheless signif- icant scale. . . Kossoff et al. . . . . . . Förstner. . . . . . . . . . . . and recommendations for management of failures. . . . . . produce enormous vol. . 200–250 million people (allowing for employees’ dependents. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

2012). 2007). Meck et al.. measured in tailings studies. with Al. Na. 1998. Sarsby (2000).Mg(CO3)2) comparatively smaller sized grains will be carried further (Rutley and Read. gen. arsenopyrite (FeAsS). in Australia the average Cu grade was c. 10% in 1885 but extract the economic metals. 2006). K-feldspar (KAlSi3O8)..9–625 lm). whereas chalcopyrite. Hence. galena and pyrrhotite may Tailings particles commonly are angular to very angular.Fe)3 low settling velocity (Atkins. Ga. chlorite ((Mg. 2007). 2004. Lottermoser efficiently is a substantial one and.2). which relies on the density differential and the secondary mineral fraction (Fig.. 2003. 2003. potentially toxic trace metal and metalloid elements. 1996. Therefore. This is in bulk density with depth as the result of compaction. Although not as common 2. Bi. Mehrabani et al. cassiterite (SnO2) and wolframite (Fe. are usually the most abundant elements.2. and also can comprise grains from the froth flotation method have a comparatively smal.g. crucially. Miller et al. and secondary oxidized minerals form. 2012a... Robb. 2002.5% by 2005 (Giurco. utilizes flocculants to render targeted metal cations hydrophobic in order that they may be separated from the bulk material..9 t m 3 with a specific gravity of 2. 2008). is pre-existing evidence of locally high concentrations (e. potentially threatening a greater area of floodplain.. 1970. Furthermore. A generalized range for tailings bulk density is practice. Sn. 2009).09–0. Blas and Bream.. 2012). 2003). As.. as it is delineated by elevated in coal. sphalerite. 2005. these (Si. they have a relatively (CaAl2Si2O8). these grains marcasite (FeS2). cess and the degree of weathering during storage in the dammed 5% in 1885 and fell to 1.5% wt. Major element compositions of tailings are not made possible by the high demand for metals in 2005–2008. Sb. dilution.. Thus the task of storing mine tailings safely and et al. dence that periods of increasing metal prices correlate with a high Mn. 1970. in the Appalachian coal deposits specific process requirements. Cu. there are always met- Long-term improvements in processing efficiency make the work. P. Hg. 2011. oxide fraction pyrite (FeS2) is almost ubiquitous. Ruhl et al. 1999... adverse drainage from coal-mine tips is not as given as 1. China. In parent rock type.17 t m 3 per 30 m depth change. 2012a). 2007.. Shraim et al. 2010). If Zn concentrations are high. other of sorbed or structurally incorporated contaminant elements (e. 2000... Hellström et al. whereas in Canada the average Ni grade was c. Mg. 2004). whereas pyrrho- or perhaps alternatively allowing for greater sediment/aqueous tite (Fe1 nS where n ranges from 0 to 0. especially where there on a significantly greater scale in the future. thereby further increasing extraction process is ever 100% efficient. The froth flotation method has an ideal grain Tailings minerals may be divided into three broad categories: size requirement of 300–50 lm (Smolders et al. Depending on the mineralogy of the original orebody. Tl and Zn) are often commonly is highly variable and difficult to generalize. but this grade has been falling steadily Hudson-Edwards et al. Additionally. The mining versally accepted protocol for directing which trace elements are of precious metal ores often results in still higher tailings ratios. Na-feldspar (NaAlSi3O8) and Ca-feldspar ler radius. Dang et al. David.. Density varies according to the Guizhou Province contain up to 3. If this trend is extrap. 2005). 2. Depending on ogy of the ore body. Cu. Within tailings piles there is an increase its products (e. This renders (CuFeS2) and galena (PbS) are also common (Keith and Vaughan. 2. however.9 lm).. In a fluvial environment.g. 1995). pyrite is often a significant phase in coal mine spoil. Ti and S also major components (Table 1). Po. calcite (CaCO3) and dolomite (Ca. 2004). (Dixon-Hardy and Engels. since this time (Müller and Frimmel. 2010). sericite ((KAl2(AlSi3O10)(F. however..3. with sand (625 lm to 2 mm) being more respectively (Diehl et al. This trend was impoundment. For example. Although there is no uni- the global tailings burden (e.Mn)WO4) (Rutley and Read.. Pb and Zn are normally quan- For example. Sarsby (2000) defined the average As concentrations in pyrite range from 944 to hard rock tailings particle sizes as largely gravel-free (<2 mm) 2700 mg kg 1 in samples sourced from Kentucky and Alabama.. Bjelkevik. for example. almost certain to be and Ashley.Al)4O10(OH)2(OH)6). This pro. The degree rate of tailings dam failure occurring some 24–36 months after the of metal and metalloid process extraction depends upon the eco- increase peaks (Davies and Martin. the residual uneconomic sulfide-oxide fraction tational settling method. are almost universal and. 1b). Hence. stibnite (SbS2). and also be present in detectable quantities (Gupta. Bjelkevik.4. Pb. utilizes remaining from base and precious metal extraction. the grade could fall to 2 g t 1 by the year their chemical similarities (e.8 (Sarsby. Kossoff et al. / Applied Geochemistry 51 (2014) 229–245 231 example. as a function of their small size. Sarsby. . include pentlandite ((Fe. magnetite (Fe3O4).b).g. was around 20 g t 1 Au. Se. chalcopyrite have a relatively large surface area to volume ratio. the average grade of gold between 1830 and 1900 tified. and always given in the literature as the foci of most studies are the the resulting sharp increase in their prices resulted in the extrac. Kossoff et al. them kinetically prone to oxidation and the likely ensuing release 2000).. Within the sulfide- downstream. Cd. 2009). because no ing of low-grade ores more economic. critical an environmental problem as from coal combustion and 2000.6–2.g. according to Stokes Law. As. The gravi. gives a gradient of oxyhydroxides contained within the coal to complex contaminants 0. Te. Chemistry of tailings 2004. Silica and tion of still lower grade ores with high tailings to concentrate ratios Fe presence. the chalcophilic elements (Ag.% As (Li et al. 2010). Lottermoser. Rabinowitz. D. Thus.g. Fresh tailings grains weather in the field when exposed to oxic The chemical composition of tailings depends on the mineral. The froth flotation process and thus mitigate toxicity (Dang et al. Kossoff et al. the gangue a significantly larger grain size of around 1 mm. S.. and generally have high concentrations (e. Tailings grain size Ge. the nature of the processing fluids used to the interaction between source mineralogy and local conditions. there is historical evi.7 g t 1 by the year 2100 (Müller and et al.OH)2). Some non pyrite-bearing coals in common than silt (3. Examples sulphide oxidation and release of Cu and Mn. als and metalloids other than Fe present in tailings.8–1.g. together with oxy- (e. Physical properties of tailings as in sulfidic tailings. Tl in Lanmuchang. 2005.. This correlation results nomic interplay between the extent of plant investment and effi- from a frantic boom-time activity where safety and legislative ciency and the price of the particular targeted metal or metalloid restrictions were not perhaps in the forefront of operators’ minds.. the efficiency of the extraction pro- it fell to 1% by 2005. 2010). Despite this.g. (Mulligan. 2005). Sb and Tl may also be monitored (Zhang Frimmel. 2007). the gangue fraction. sphalerite (ZnS). conditions. sulfide and oxide minerals can be found in this fraction. K. Mineralogy of tailings cess has a requirement for fine silt-sized particles (Younger and Wolkersdorfer. the tailings fraction is dominated by quartz (SiO2). 2002). Xiao et al. 2011). Kossoff 2050 and to as little as 0. and clay-free (<3. Cd is also measured due to olated into the future. In. dewatering likely a function of the capacity of organic compounds and iron and diagenesis. Mercury. 2003. Hellström et al.. Filella et al.. Ca. In sulfide tailings between the heavier sulfide and lighter silicate fractions. this morphology imposes a high friction angle on dry tailings 2002).Ni)9S8).

gypsum (CaSO42H2O). The secondary mineral assemblage dry stacking and storage behind dammed impoundments often hosts the major contaminant metals and metalloids by both (Lottermoser.96 ± 0. Larragoitia et al.55 V 30 40.25 17.99 0. Boliden.42 La 13.8 19.06 6. et al.00 Co 15 106 44 57. by definition. Potosi. backfilling.02 Fe 6.1 19.6 Ti 0. Poly-sulfide Poly-sulfide Pb/As Au and Poly.00 S 2–5 6. Some common examples include goethite (a-FeOOH). China Lavrion.6 17. Storage of tailings in dammed impoundments may form. complexation (or sorption) by solute ions.5 3–15 8. melanterite (FeSO47H2. Kossoff et al. submarine disposal.36 0. 2007). respectively. The tailings are normally stored under taminant sinks function for as long as the secondary minerals water to prevent the formation of surface dusts and of acid mine themselves remain stable.7 Mo <5.8 ± 0.2 Cu 1600 84 400 192 727 453 640 3550 502 ± 39 Hg 8. 2000.00 P 0. (2003) (2006) (1997) (2006) (2008) Herbert et al. carbonates.7 W <59. 1c) or ‘tailings dams’.0077 0. 2000) and these range in area minerals of particular significance. Au and poly. Ye et al.58 4.% Al 1–4 2. scorodite (FeAsO42H2O) erine disposal. and beyond.2 Zn 7400 7300 2000 5021 5000–50. Edwards et al.044 0. . Approaches to the handling and storage of tailings include riv- O). and kaolinite ((Al2Si2O5(OH)4).000 3713 2178 5290 26.2 Y 12. with the negatively charged hydroxyl and oxygen groundwater (Smuda et al.46 3.8 31.92 Nb 11. anglesite (PbSO4).7 21. climate and redox state.12 0. The main method currently employed (espe- structural incorporation and surface sorption.7 Tl 56 10 9.30 ± 0.000– 6805 3528 1850 846 2180 ± 120 30.22 ± 0.01 1 Values in mg kg Ag 60 As 2500 4000 1000–25. (Fig. Hence.7 Ba 604 200 274 Cd 27 71 30 14 50–200 10 16. In these areas the estab- atively charged oxygen atoms in secondary minerals such as sul. 1b).11 ± 0.196 0. from a few ha to some thousands of ha (Davies et al.600 ± 1300 such as pH.44 ± 0.08 ± 0.276 0. 2014). Potosi.1 ± 0. (2008) (2002) Deposit type Poly-sulfide Poly.06 ± 0. Bolivia Spain Sardinia Mexico (densely vegetated) Greece (Spoil Portugal USA Sweden Bolivia B) Reference Hudson. wetland retention. and Aranguren (2011) et al.700 26.7 222 ± 18 Sr 43. scale crystallographic defect where mineral ions are available for The maintenance of an adequate water level may be problematic. jarosite (KFe3(SO4)2(OH)6) (Fig.55 K 0.5 ± 0.685 1. Concas Castro.10 Ca 4–16 0.232 D. (1995) et al.00 Mn 0.68 Si 15. San Luis.04 ± 0. Pb are structural components of scorodite and plumbojarosite with the structures produced often termed ‘tailings ponds’ (Pb0. For example. depending on the rate of drainage (by forestalling oxidation).07 0. Virginia. There are at least 3500 tailings ions found on the surface of primary and secondary oxide and clay dams worldwide (Martin and Davies.000 1213 25 2960 5600 6960 ± 452 Au 0. lishment of a vadose zone within the impoundment may well fates.. The surface of any mineral is. Algares. Kossoff et al.18 0.35 0.5Fe3(SO4)2(OH)6).22 ± 0.6 118 62. especially when large dissolution. Piscinas.000 Sb 270 8 723 ± 63 Sc 8. phosphates and arsenates may be significant facilitate the ingress of contaminant metal(loids) into the local sorption sites.1 ± 5.04 Mg 0.8 Sn 136 <23. Poly-sulfide Poly-sulfide sulfide sulfide sulfide poly.8 Cr 80 11 36. / Applied Geochemistry 51 (2014) 229–245 Table 1 Examples of chemical characteristics of tailings. Milluni. Location Aznalcóllar.06 2. In this respect the neg. Leechang. a large. As and cially by large companies in the Developed World) is the latter.3 Pb 8500 4100 3000 1642 10..46 4.9 Ni 20 25 <5 10 11. (2002) Kontopoulos Bobos Seal Gleisner Salvarredy. sulfide sulfide Number of 11 Not Not given Average of 5 Not given Average Average Not given Not given 30 samples given of 15 of 7 Concentrations in wt.00 Na 0. et al. amounts of acid-generating pyrite and pyrrhotite are present. particular secondary minerals 3.39 0. those particular con. particularly in arid and semi-arid areas.

The New Viljoen. 2002).. 2007). 2000). verti. It is also thought that many. 2004. 2005). rier. Given but also results in the finer fraction forming an impermeable bar- the total number of current tailings impoundments is c. good practice to ensure that the foundation is well drained. The not only helps to preserve the integrity of the dam by placing the current rate of major tailings dam failure has been estimated as coarser more porous material in the structure itself (see below).. the liners are often tested (Lottermoser. 1995). posal point). If the tailings are predicted constructed and then raised as storage demand increases to generate acid mine drainage (AMD). as a smaller amount of building the published data are unquestionably valuable.. with modeled or actual AMD fluid before final installation structed the embankments can either be raised upstream. they are incom- material is required (Soares et al. Even the rather than a loose. Therefore. Rico et al. usually made of clay. 2007).. Villarroel et al. 2. being of the order of two to five per annum (Davies. horizontal water table forming. Central Tailings thicker layers of coarse tailings as the dam is raised. Of these three methods of construction these are summarized in Table 2 and depicted in Fig. 2008a. Good and poor practice in construction of upstream tailings dams (redrawn after Martin and McRoberts. 2001). downstream and centreline sequen.. At the impoundment site common dispersal meth- popular media. Consequently. they are ideally underlain by a competent sand-sized layer and a diameter of 2. 1988). severe seismic events. which in turn reduces piping or seepage across the dam struc- the rate of failure is one in 700 to one in 1750. and key examples of impoundment (Fig. must be well below the dam wall to reduce susceptibility to liquefaction under tially raised tailings dams (redrawn after Vick. 3500. A common cause of piping is the deposition of thin layers of fine tailings between Fig. (Shackelford et al. The integrity of the liner.. 1999). 3. 1983). 2001). or downstream (Martin and McRoberts. as smaller incidents are very common (e. was constructed with a planned capacity of in order to ensure that each new layer is well compacted. The available data suggest that active rather than inactive alternating wet and dry cycling. 4. 2007. To that end it local materials. Cornelia tailings Cu tailings dam in Arizona is said to be the largest In order to preserve structural integrity of successive raises of dam structure (by volume) in the USA. Chakraborty and Choudhury. Rico et al. Canada) covers an area of tion of inadequately monitored upstream raising and/or inade- 25 km2 with a 50 m depth of tailings. Ontario.. Causes of tailings dam failures within the existing impoundment. 2007). cally (centre-line). Bussière et al. whereas finer (less permeable) clay sized parti- Wolkersdorfer.5 km (Engels and Dixon-Hardy. Dixon-Hardy and cles are more distally dispersed.. Upstream raising is achieved by the placing of the new material 4. Kossoff et al. which differentiates the tailings material by size. from an place a number of tailings discharge points around the impound- extensive analysis of European tailings dam failure data. with the area closest to the dis- which is approximately one in 10. Piping through a tailings dam is an erosional process that results in an undermining patent liquid channel or pipe being established through the structure. plete. 2). 3). This is a much ture. concluded ment and use them sequentially (Dixon-Hardy and Engels. This practice. Although the initial dyke is commonly for a wide tailings ‘beach’ (defined as the sub-aerial tailings dis- made of locally-derived soil (Álvarez-Valero et al.. After the initial structure has been con. used with permission). quately constrained particle size dispersion (Van Niekerk and aged capacity of more than 725 Mt (Puro et al. WISE.. / Applied Geochemistry 51 (2014) 229–245 233 Lottermoser. 2012). is a key factor in the long-term performance ity structure. possibly. It is also over 5 Mm3 (Dillon et al. This is a func- Disposal Area (Sudbury. whereas downstream raising describes the raising ures (e. 2009). 2012). waste rock and the tailings ensuring that the sand size larger (more permeable) particles form themselves are often used in construction (Younger and the dam structure. 2012. Ireland. USCOLD. Schematic illustrations of upstream.g. piping might be described as a process of large-scale seepage. with a capacity of 29 Mm3 dams. Tailings are normally pumped from the mill to the impound- 2006) and are under-reported in both the scientific literature and ment as slurry. 2010). For example. thus Tailings dams are commonly constructed from readily available serving to maintain a low phreatic surface (Fig. if not the majority ods include cycloning or dispersal through spiggoting to achieve of failures are not reported due to fears of bad publicity and legal size differentiation of the material. Davies et al. 1994. particularly in China and Russia. To that relatively small tailings impoundment at the Lisheen Pb–Zn mine end the raising rate of the dam structure is normally restrained in Tipperary. . 2000. 2007).. charge point being more exposed to atmospheric O2 and. it is good practice to impoundments are most likely to fail. however. for example. D. 2004). may lead to the possibility of a sub- higher rate than that of the major failure of water-retaining dam. which is Engels. intermediate retaining embankments are normally of a tailings dam (Van Zyl et al.000 (Davies. Rather than initially installing a finalized full capac. of the embankment by placing the new material outside the Engels and Dixon-Hardy.. Although upstream raising is the cheapest. the Inco Ltd. in is appropriate to allow for good drainage of the dam by providing water-retention dams. 1999. and has an ultimate envis. (2008b). rather than the concrete used. The phreatic surface Fig. potentially incompetent clay-sized.g. Size-differentiated dispersal ramifications (Davies. centre-line raising is accom- plished by placing new material directly on top of the existing Several reviews have compiled information on tailings dam fail- embankment. 2009.

d Hudson-Edwards et al. k Brugge et al.000. 15% overtopping has been cited as the primary failure mode in nearly occurred in inactive and abandoned dams and only 2% occurred one-half of the incidents (Davies. 1965)c Cu 1. 1985. l Rudolph (1936). (2003). (2006). (2003). 2000)j 100. Fig. Image used courtesy of NASA. Used with permission from the Archive Stava 1985 Onlus Foundation – www. (c) Red mud spill at Akja.000 A Breach following earthquake Upstream Unknown Jinduicheng (Shaanxi province.stava1985.000 and snow melt Kingston plant (Tennessee. 2010)e 7. Au/cyanide Two incidents of A Breach following heavy rain Upstream 0 (Romania.000 A Unknown Unknown Unknown Cerro Negro No. Merriespruit (South Au 600. Hungary. contributory factor accounting for the comparative stability of .100. i Alexander (1986).000 A Breach following heavy rain Upstream Possibly 3 childrenm Aznalcóllar (Spain. g Fourie et al. b WISE (2012). that 83% of failures occurred when the dam was active. Mo 700. North Italy. (2000). It is likely that a significant in inactive but maintained dams. h Macklin et al. 1996)h Sulfide 400. Potosí (‘Bolivia’. (2011). 2002).000 I Breach following heavy rain/ Upstream 17 Africa. 1985)b Cu 2. Kossoff et al.000– A Unknown Unknown 10 plant (Hungary. e Ruyters et al. 4.900. Mine (location and year) and Principal mined ore/process Volume of tailings Active (A)/ Cause Dam raising Immediate material material released released (m3) Inactive (I) method fatalities San Ildfonso. 1998)d Sulfide 1. 4 (Chile. (2001). / Applied Geochemistry 51 (2014) 229–245 Table 2 Examples of tailings impoundment failures. (2009).300. 2010. Photographs of tailings impoundment failures and effects. (2007).000 A Breach following earthquake Upstream >300 Church Rock (New Mexico.000.000 A Retention wall failure Upstream 0 2008)a As/Hg Ajkai Timfoldgyar Zrt alumina Al/alkali 6. Sulfide/Ag Hg Unknown A Unknown Unknown 4000 1626)l El Cobre Old Dam ( c Rudolph and Coldewey (1971).000 A Foundation failure/poor Mixed 0 maintenance Baia Mare and Baia Borsa Ag. 1994)g poor maintenance Stava (North Italy. 1995)i Fluorite 190. 1988)f maintenance Harmony.000.000 A Overtopping/poor Upstream 20 China. Coal fly ash/226Ra + 228Ra/ 4. f Davies et al. m Garcia-Guinea and Harffy (1998). (a) and (b) Views downstream of the effects of the tailings dam failure at Stava.000 a Ruhl et al. 1979)k U 400. j Macklin et al. For inactive impoundments. USA.000 A Poor maintenance Upstream 250 Porco (Bolivia.234 D.

for example. 1998). a vital component of which is a comprehensive potentially toxic elements. Rico et al. in calcite. but the chief danger. tive preventive responses.. overtopping. mortality. Hudson-Edwards et al. erly maintained operational logs (e. 2002). in seismically village in 1985 directly led to around 250 deaths by drowning or susceptible areas. slope instability. ures (WISE. an essential requirement of effective tailings impound- Cementation. On 25 April 1998 some the dam structure itself. seismic lique. Table 2). 2005. Over the medium. principally for and dissolved oxygen fell to c. 4). Upstream raised dams (Fig. 1996. may have the additional benefit of sequestering ment management. Hungary red mud spill Hokaido. et al. as a direct result of the spill.g. 2008a. Kossoff et al. dams at ten people died directly following the Ajka. mud blocking the gills topography. The sheer magnitude and often toxic nature of the material held 2002.. particularly where tailings dam spills compound already ele- go this far. 2) are the most likely to fail (Davies. 2001). Thirty-seven tonnes of economic reasons (USEPA. such as Pb and As.. dead fish were collected in the month following the accident. This embankment dams. Such geotechnical fac. (Martin and Davies. two Chilean dams dam failure of 1994 (Davies et al. surveillance programme (Martin and Davies. impact.. 2011). such as local was due to a combination of burial. Environmental impacts of tailings dam failures 35% of European failures are accounted for by extreme meteorolog- ical events. 2006.. 2003). a failure rate which may well increase with anthropo. except for those triggered by earthquake or major storm events estimated that cementation may increase the liquefaction resis. snow melt and overtopping) and nearly all occurrences may have multiple causes (e. D. too. One of downstream (Edwards.3  106 m3 of tailings were deposited over 26 km2 of the Guadi- tends to raise pore pressure and thus render the overall structure amar River Basin following the breach of Aznalcóllar dam at the vulnerable to shear stress (Hustrulid. 2012). Low permeability foundation material 1. but no earthquake (Verdugo et al. Seventeen induced incidents include the failure of six Chilean dams during fatalities were recorded following the Merriespruit (South Africa) the 1965 earthquake (Dobry and Alvarez. and meteorological conditions at the time of disposal) allows for faction.g. 1967). and aquatic and human life for potentially hundreds of km integrity is to be maintained (Martin and Davies.. (2008b) categorized failures into eleven broad Vandeberg et al. for example. 2001).. 1999. Smith et al. and the ensuing dis- ‘unforgiving structures’ (Martin and McRoberts. Nazca. 2014).. 1b gives a and maintenance. almost certainly results in The latter group stresses the particular importance of a robust increased rates of pathology and. and during the 1985 earthquake (Castro and Troncoso. itative visual indications of potential problems. fatalities were reported. struc. is from earthquakes. but metal and As contamination were turally weak material beneath the structure.b. In the immediate after- Mochikoshi. 2011). This design and good maintenance programme that have been specifi. The impact of tailings dam breaks on fish and terrestrial animal ability of the foundation is a vital constraint on the stability of and plant life can be just as severe. therefore.. For example. (2008b) report that 25% of worldwide and 5. poor maintenance and structural failure). piping or seepage. structural. Rico et al. / Applied Geochemistry 51 (2014) 229–245 235 inactive tailings impoundments lies in the ongoing oxidation and The integrity of tailings dams is dependent on both good design cementation of tailings in the unsaturated zone (Fig. upstream raising is not a suitable construction method in seismi. alternating fine and thin layers. 1996.. mill-impoundment distance and catchment area size and the extreme change in water chemistry (the pH fell to around 3 were often more given more weight in the past. on 4 October 2010 (Ruyters et al. Good maintenance programmes are.. larly for active impoundments. unusual rain. taking into account potential of 2012 (Foulds et al. math of a severe dam break the deaths reported are largely the Karbasi. 2000. 1999). Rico et al. 2000). Records ure through static liquefaction (Davies. Bolivia) dam. but instead strongly emphasize the risks involved. maintenance and unknown causes. However. 2005) and at Maule. such behavior the flood resulting from the March 1626 failure of the San Ildefonso obviously being highly prejudicial to the stability of a tailings (Potosí. all of the fish tors are not often given due weight in determining the siting of and shellfish present in the polluted watercourses were killed. 2000).. 2000). 1994). vated floodplain concentrations. Piezometers. 2000). Japan after the 1968 earthquake (Prakash et al. On the other hand. is foundation long- (Psarropoulos et al. 1999). Chile following the 2010 term many more deaths may occur as a result of toxicity. when historically Pb contaminated failure mechanisms (e. 2003). was seen. 2000. For instance. Examples of seismically suffocation (Chandler and Tosatti.. Structure set- for example.. whereas others do not ment. tance of the impoundment by as much as 250% over 30 years. mine subsi. 1994). for which charge into river systems. A selection of other factors. 1989). will invariably affect water and sediment good design practice and stewardship are vitally important if quality. recording dates. 5. particu.g. drawn. The combination of these data with prop- groups: foundation. The causes of failure in active dams are more diverse than those clinometers and pressure gauges may all be employed to good for inactive impoundments. the major potential hazards of upstream dam construction is fail. 0. but some general conclusions may be effect in a sensibly designed monitoring protocol (Vick.. locations dence. micro-scale view of this process). 2003..1. 1996.. Anonymous. around 4000 people were killed in ing the material to behave in a liquid-like manner. by extension. 1999). Some authors conclude that direct links to tailings dam failures have been made. ing in poisoning and death of cattle. Moreover. The collapse of two tailings impoundments at dam. .. Fig. The perme.g. flood sediments were inadvertently incorporated in silage result- Another frequent cause of dam impoundment failure. Such dams have been said to be within tailings dams means that their failure.. such as buried widespread in the largely agricultural Guadiamar basin and threa- pre-weathered slopes. Hudson-Edwards et al. Japan after the 1978 earthquake (Byrne and Seid. There is a reliable quantification of risk. Boliden Los Frailes Ag–Cu–Pb–Zn mine facility (López-Pamo too pervious a construction material can render the foundation et al.. 2012). or the Stava in northern Italy and the ensuing flooding of the eponymous motion of heavy equipment. However. snow melt. Davies. Immediate (hours to months) impacts genically-related climate change. in secondary phases. This may be defined indicate that thousands of people have died from tailings dam fail- as the loss of solid properties in response to an applied stress caus. The applied stress may result from mine blasting. Peru during the 1996 earthquake results of drowning and suffocation. Most failures are preceded by warning signs.5–1 g L 1). Fourie et al. No immediate human structure vulnerable to piping failure (see above).g. 2006). Troncoso (1990). gypsum and jarosite-group minerals (Jia tlement cracking and wet spots on the dam face are all good qual- and Demopoulos. Martin and McRoberts. Macklin et al. leakage of contaminants such as As and Pb into the wider environ- cally susceptible areas (e. thereby enabling effective proac- some obvious overlap between several of these categories (e. 2003. following the Mid-Wales summer floods cally tailored for the particular site. USEPA. will render tened the ecologically significant Doñana National Park (Grimalt the foundation susceptible to shear stress. 1983.

30 0. 2001).1 0. with a pH of 13.. Spain (April 1998)d Figures in parenthesis are medians. and Hg amalgam were released into the Pilcomayo catchment For example.88 33 <0. These metallic elements are thereby kept that the radiation released was of a similar order of magnitude.15) (72. The resultant flood traveled at a speed of contaminated mud (Grimalt et al. (2002) recounted Aznalcóllar breech. May 1998 all agricultural products from the affected area were It is highly likely that a significant proportion of the elevated Hg harvested for destruction.4 0.0  105 m3 of gold tailings and process material some spills were released into the River Tisa. although not as extensive. process effluent into the north fork of the Puerco River. 2010)e Figures in parenthesis are filtered to 0. (Hudson. in the morning hours of calculated that the January spill released up to 120 tonnes of cya.45 lm Al As Cd Mn Mo V (mg L 1) (lg L 1) (lg L 1) (lg L 1 ) (lg L 1 ) (lg L 1 ) Reference samples Spill plus 0.05–2.24–0.0 Aznalcóllar. From 13 that 19 tonnes of Hg were released in a period of just two hours. Dam failures can inundate river systems with vast amounts of Hence.01 43 <0. b USEPA (2002). released 7.32)⁄ (0.. Furthermore. in the aftermath of a tailings dam flood the concentration tailings. together with selected advisory maxima for irrigation and drinking water concentrations.21 <0. 2001).0 2.. (1999).60 71. 2010). 2000.38–74. Gioda et al. 1936. 2006).3 0.15) (2. The tailings from both some 6.. In groundwater migration is not under control. Romania. 1979. up to 60 km h 1 and a distance of 4 km downstream (Chandler On 30 January and 10 March 2000 two separate tailings dam and Tosatti. For instance. Lásló (2006) the Torna Creek and Marcal River.001) (39) (11) Immediately adjacent to dam 1228 3926 59 9894 5443 6398 breech (659) (3612) (53) (<1) (4114) (5709) Kolontar village 3 km 12. The toxic effects of both spills resulted in contamination ing flood contaminants were transported 130 km downstream and fish deaths not only in Romania. whereas the March failed. This is likely one of the reasons that some Three Mile Island release at 13 Ci (Brugge et al. as a consequence. Gioda et al. a major Danube tributary. sian authorities instigated a compulsory purchase program for all dent (Hudson-Edwards et al. there was a significant Al tailings and bauxite processing effluent. ⁄lg L 1 all other values in mg L 1 Seven sampling sites ‘‘near’’ the Spill plus 1. 2001).01 0.40 10. into spill of extractant cyanide as a tailings component.. Davies.005 1.2 5. In the ensu- Cu and Zn.74–4. adapted from Fipps (1996).65) (0. (2011). Fe. close to dam failure occurred following a heavy rainstorm and released the Ukrainian border (Macklin et al. immediately after the March 1626 failure of contaminant elements in floodplain standing and pore water of the Bolivian San Ildefonso dam.23) (4) (86) (44) (30) a WHO (1993. c Long term values.12) Kolontar. Brugge et al. 2003).1 210 58 35 (0.2 0. drinking water.. and the resulting effluent was placed in unlined international consequences of severe tailings dam failure incidents pits. Sampling date As Cd Cu Mn Pb Zn 1 1 1 1 1 1 (mg L ) (mg L ) (mg L ) (mg L ) (mg L ) (mg L ) a WHO 0. 2003). 1990. / Applied Geochemistry 51 (2014) 229–245 whereas all of the dead crabs and shellfish disappeared into the tailings dam failures. Approximately 1. The The first failure occurred at a newly constructed gold and silver Ajka. authors recommend that cyanide waste be treated and removed Invariably associated with sulfide tailings oxidation is the ‘in plant’ before being deposited in impoundments (Hoskin. Hungary spill on 4 October 2010. cyanide spills radioactive waste from the Church Rock tailings impoundment are particularly problematical because the cyanide readily forms occurred in the same year as that of the Three Mile Island partial an aqueous complex with metals such as Cu. 1999).56 2. whereas on the 9–18 June the Andalu- concentrations on present day floodplain is derived from this inci.1 77 420 347 downstream (9. thereby emphasizing the potential cross-border after the accident.01 0. and the without the cyanide. Risk assessment: Technical background information (MCL values used). 1999). of the spill 1240 t of fish were reported killed (Lásló.9  105 m3 of of the affected land (Grimalt et al. an earthen dam at Church Rock Mill (New Mexico) nide and metallic elements into the catchment.. enormous quantities of tailings maybe so high as to adversely affect vegetation and arable crops. e Mayes et al. The Merriespruit (South Africa) bursts occurred at Baia Mare and Baia Borsa.’ The acute release of international and distance down-basin contexts. Table 3 provides some liquefied fluorite tailings were released from the two Stava (Italy) data on fluvial metal concentrations in the aftermath of a tailings Table 3 Selected aqueous river water concentrations following tailings dam spills.015 c R & A-M 0. guidelines for drinking water quality. 2002). Production resumed two weeks and Bulgaria. It has been estimated and Van Deventer. 2007). 1979). d Simón et al.003 2 0.236 D. Macklin et al. July 16th. 2003). .75 0. Finally. Serbia (Graf.30) (11.01 3. potential for metal and metalloid mobilization and acidification.5.41) (4) (81) (78) (39) T6 30 km downstream 1. 1999).01 0. releasing 1100 t of radioactive waste and 360 million l of spill. 2001. an area of 4286 ha was contaminated by the (Rudolph..73 181 <0. 2007). Hungary (October 4. 1996.1 161 83 48 (0. of which 2557 ha were agricultural.. further threatening water quality (USEPA. In the immediate aftermath the USEPA (2010) stress that at the Church Rock site ‘currently.81 mine 10 days (2.93–11.02) (147) (8) (416) (343) T4 10 km downstream 4.1 84 19 <1 58 days (0.1 <0. 2006). 2nd and 3rd editions. Ni and Zn (Rees core meltdown accident (Rogovin.0  105 m3 of reprocessing facility and. but also in Hungary.64–0. 3 km downstream (Davies et al. Kossoff et al. in solution over much greater distances than would be the case with the Church Rock release being estimated at 46 Ci. released significant amounts of Pb.. Fourie et al.0 USEPAb 0.

(Cheng et al. Contamination of soils and sediments example. rather than the tailings was the likely source the Rio Guadiamar and high rates of sedimentation in the lower of contamination (Mayes et al. the potential for AMD gener. Here. In the medium. at least longer-term. In a global context alluvial floodplains are often fertile environ- ation is correspondingly higher. It also inadvertently further Aqueous dilution lowers contaminant concentrations down. however.2. 2003. Hence. Molybdenum was not present in particularly et al. As is present as an anion in solution gradually over 50 km to concentrations of 500 mg L 1. identified in other catchments affected by tailings dam spills. European Union limits (Turner. undisturbed dam ments. By 1997. and Macklin. in resulted in accelerated bank and bed erosion in the upper parts of this case. in August 2002. 2001). water. heavy rains. 2012). in the aftermath of a spill.2. providing both spatial and temporal data on river catchment river bed and floodplain. Al concentrations were very high as one might Specific areas of concern remain however. longer-term adverse effects of a dam spill on the floodplain envi- Edwards et al. Soon after the Porco (Bolivia) impoundment potential historical contaminant remobilization risks have been failure Macklin et al. the unremediated soil Tailings dam spills can contaminate natural waters in the short. reaching as far as 500 km downstream of the breach orbed from phases such as Fe oxyhydroxides (Olías et al. Although no cleanup operations were undertaken after the Por- has a suspended sediment load of 10. 2001. 2002). floodplain sediment. Flood- spill-derived tailings deposited on the surfaces of floodplains are plain contamination by metal and metalloid elements is a highly susceptible to atmospheric oxidation. 2012a). Medium. as a consequence of expect. showed element concentrations far in excess of the Chinese soil term. 2008a)..2. for example. Contamination of water 2005). together with some selected advisory maxima for irri. 1998). 2001. 2009).to longer-term (years to centuries) impacts thick layer of black sludge.1... (1996) reported very high levels of contami. Isolated hot spots of con- ima were exceeded apart for that for Cu.. 2003)..g.. how. 2005. (2005) report an increase in As tions had fallen considerably. Hudson-Edwards et al. The data show that after after the spill and cleanup. 2006). of Ajka. many of these elements are potentially toxic Overall. The Pilcomayo. Therefore.... 2003). for example. 1996. inundating the Dong River from those of on-going lower grade contamination (e. 2003). Kossoff et al..g. a tailings dam collapsed on 25 August 1985 following arising from chronic contamination. the dam. 2012). May 1999. These examples mixed tailings. 12 and 13 November 1996 showed that river waters collected next Amongst the generally monitored contaminants (particularly to the dam breach had >2500 mg L 1 Pb. particularly where the river receives waters from contaminated by historical (pre-spill) mining activities. remained ten years after the accident. 2006. Cleanup efforts focused only on selected areas. in the Guadiamar catchment soil and sediment contamination following a dam spill. chronic contamination from (Smolders et al. Some 17 years later. maximum allowable concentration (MAC) standard. 2008). Indeed. 1987).. given the vast sediment load. This to construct the breached dam itself (53 mg kg 1). It was. ences of a spill on a river basin’s biota are difficult to disentangle Liu et al. almost ubiquitous. pollution (Lewin and Macklin. be it chronic or acute. downstream river Pb concentra. In the case ularly in areas proximal to the dam breech (Olías et al. 2006).. Immediately following the spill the fish kill was also neutral/moderately alkaline values.. were maintained at least 500 km conditions recover and pH returns from acidic values to circum- longer-term (years to centuries) con..6 g L 1 (Smolders et al. thereby compounding frequent. and this quantity has been calculated as being sufficient longer-term water quality showed no obvious lasting adverse to annually cover an area of 5000 ha with a layer one m thick effects from the spill itself. largely to below regulatory limits concentration with distance downstream in the Guadiamar in as a function of dilution (Smolders and Lanza de Smolders. however.. 2002). As may be competitively des- extensive.. particularly in mountainous and dryland environments. increased contamination of the catchment by releasing sediment stream of a spill. but in the medium. as it does in many of the Bolivian Pilaya/Pilcomayo aqueous system compared to that other catchments worldwide affected by historical metal mining of the Spanish Guadiamar is the result of its high sediment load. as fluvial ter concentrations. The relatively complete recovery dam spills (Hudson-Edwards et al. 2011). as well as aqueous dilution by clean ongoing unregulated discharge of tailings into the water-course. dilution by the river’s sediment load will serve to consider. such nation in the Pilcomayo and its tributary the Pilaya. downstream Pilcomayo (Hudson-Edwards et al.. clearly demonstrate the very significant role that river dynamics tially explains the mitigation of AMD that was observed in the have on the rehabilitation of mining-affected catchments. reaches of the Guadiamar catchment. If the soil and tailings are not well mixed as. Rico et al. 2004). result of failure. These data (which was affected by the 1998 Aznalcóllar tailings dam spill) indicate that soil and sediment contaminant concentration fall as a . Strips of farmland 400 m wide along both river banks were covered with a 15 cm- 5. Lewin commonly severe. that the adverse dam spill effects will be cumulative with those China. Furthermore. the high concentrations of Mo provide a particu. for example. Macklin et al. however. and.. Table 4 lists taminant concentrations are likely to fall because of the effects of some examples of floodplain soil and sediment metal concentra- sediment and aqueous dilution and uptake by solid phases in the tions. and that this only fell from sulfide tailings). / Applied Geochemistry 51 (2014) 229–245 237 dam break.. and now generally lie within acceptable the Aznalcóllar dam break. Turner waste material itself. The contaminant metals tamination. after a tailings dam breech. bank and high concentrations in the red mud (11–18 mg kg 1).. Nevertheless it is clear ronment are illustrated by data from the Pb–Zn mine in Chenzhou. the acute effects of a spill are to the biosphere in general and humans in particular (e. a reduction of riverine acidity. Macklin. once mobilized. 5. However. partic- present are very much a function of the particular site. co (Bolivia) accident it is noteworthy that in the medium. and drainage through old workings remains a matter of concern ably mitigate the medium.long-term adverse effects of tailings (Hudson-Edwards et al. and removal of riparian vegetation. found in elevated concentrations in the fly ash material used taken after the spill did leave a highly unstable river channel. (Macklin et al. supporting animal husbandry and crop production.. under- ever.2. D. leaving some agricultural land unremediated (Liu et al. The extensive excavation of channel bed. The possible medium. These lat.. all of the regulatory max. which. Calculations show that where contaminants are both diluted and stored within an aggrad- 50 t of Pilcomayo soil will permanently buffer 1 tonne of well ing floodplain and river bed (Macklin et al. 2001. Similar a clean tributary. Hudson. 1987. influ. their AMD generating capacity (see below). Kossoff et al. dilution notwithstanding. the on-going physical recovery and adjustment of the river channel larly salient example of contamination not sourced from the mine and floodplain to post-spill conditions (Macklin et al. may carry very large sediment loads. For example. which may be a consequence of desorption following Rivers. concentrations of metal contaminants in surface waters decreased gation and drinking water concentrations.. Sampling on as the Marcal basin following the Ajka spill (Klebercz et al. Hudson-Edwards et al. Thus. for 5.

4–126) (948–4200) Alluvium (1983) (n = 8) 6.6 100 300 250 Chenzhou.9–190) (88–1400) (230–1700) (1800–10. hill 10 km from mine 2.3 56 67 260 (0.g Río Guadiamar post-cleanup alluvium (January and May 99) 3 km downstream (n = 37) 4. Romania (March 2000)i River Novatß channel sediment July (2001) 0.82) (118.5–12) (17–490) (50–2700) (140–4600) 23 km downstream (n = 11) 2. Kossoff et al.8 36 85 140 Intervention 12 190 530 720 Chinese legal valuesb Background threshold 0. Spain (April 1998)d.2 72 and 100 100 and 220 520 and 640 River Somesß floodplain sediment July 2000 (n = 8) 2.2 and 3.6) (9.2–6.6–280) (18–540) (70–900) Tailings and previous studies on the Río Guadíamar Tailings (n = 11) 27 950–3000 3700–12.9 52 190 600 Pre-spill alluvium Pre-spill alluvium (n = 17) 0.5–0.2) (190–540) (180–470) (540–1300) Rivers Vaser and Visßeu channel sediments July 2000 (n = 8) 3. 760 280 4670 Alluvium (1990) (n = 3) 9.7 72.5) (9–20) (6–16) (41–110) Pre-mining alluvium (n = 8) <0.5–4) (30–330) (25–200) (96–800) July 2003 (n = 12) 2.000 (12–76) (1600) (8500) (7400) Alluvium (1996) (n = 15) n.9) (28–300) (66–750) (190–1800) Río Guadiamar suspended sediment (October 1999 flood) 1.4–1340) (35.5) (<0.34) Remediated soil. 8 km from mine 7.2 170 100 430 (0. 1985)b All samples taken August 2002 Background soil. 1 1 1 1 Incident/area Cd (mg kg ) Cu (mg kg ) Pb (mg kg ) Zn (mg kg ) a Dutch soil remediation values Target 0.5 14 84 (<0.64–88.59) Porco.08–148.5) (4–28) (39–130) Aznalcóllar.34–30.5–0.95) (852.61 (2.83 1088.6–1.1–6.7–10.47 and 6. 9.5–0.60–1251.18) (154.3) (81–540) (45–300) (270–1200) River Vaser and Visßeu floodplain sediment July 2000 (n = 7) 3.72–13. China (25 August.8 300 180 1000 (1.5 14 13 85 (<0.5 649 76 2690 (4.73) (529.11 416.3 1000.5 km from mine 2.6) (44–120) (14–34) (220–410) July 2002 (n = 9) 2.18 321.1 556 473 2043 (0.66) (42.47–658.49 140.50–11.57 135.5 14 21 130 (<0.08) (295.25–3.08) (53.f.5–0.0) (24–1409) (22–1212) (68–5204) Aurul.12–1443.1) (90.6) (100–520) (100–270) (280–1400) July 2001 (n = 9) 1 75 21 320 (0.50 150 300 670 (<0.43 250 200 1300 (1.70–2.000 3700–23.r.08 25.95 60.09) Unremediated soil.87–512.9 250 310 1100 .34) (22.6–5.71 (3.5–14) (13–180) (11–1200) (93–4800) Downstream of Río Pilaya (n = 4) <0.000) Downstream of Río Pilaya (n = 2) <0.07) (110. Bolivia (August and September 1996)c Río Pilcomayo channel sediments and tailings effluent (1998) Upstream of Río Pilaya (n = 6) 62 490 960 8200 (6.48 (1.6) (11–17) (20–22) (9–170) Historic alluvium Upstream of Río Pilaya (n = 8) 6 95 480 2000 (<0.97–184.1–2.4 120 70 1100 (1.e.4 92 and 200 120 and 230 400 and 1100 River Somesß channel sediment July 2000 (n = 8) 7.4 320 270 750 (2–6. / Applied Geochemistry 51 (2014) 229–245 Table 4 Examples of floodplain soils and sediment concentrations following tailings dam spills.1 78 140 220 (0.2 35 35 100 Maximum allowable concentration 0.8–4) (20–160) (28–110) (84–600) Novatß Rosßu.17–76.7 260 990 1200 (0.5 <0. Romania (January 2000)h River Lapusß channel sediment July 2000 (n = 2) 4.238 D.8 220 140 570 (1.2–17) (12–360) (28–120) (64–3200) River Lapusß floodplain sediment July 2000 (n = 2) 3.3–19) (87–1000) (53–930) (390–5600) July (2003) 3.

260 ng m 3. c Macklin et al.2 Kolontar village 3 km downstream 51.d. e Turner et al. 146 and 179 72 and 107 Rio Chilco channel sediment Downstream of Abaróa Mine (n = 5) n.0 185. soil.6 Sediment immediately adjacent to dam breech (n = 9) 78. Pb concentrations had a total As particulate concentration of 11. n. in the easily wind-mobilized fine dust fraction (<8 lm) at concen- trations of 10.8 6. A comprehensive survey. tions of contaminants (particularly As and to a lesser extent. 2003) as a consequence of the remobilisation of met. 2003.000 tonnes of Pb. more recently. Furthermore.r. Further floods in June 2012 resulted in large-scale remobilisation of examples of the importance of wind as a contaminant vector from mining-contaminated sediment with concentrations of Pb surficial tailings have been reported from Broken Hill. Dennis et al. n = number of samples. (2003).r. = not reported. 1997). however.r. function of distance from the spill (cf. following floods in the summer of 2012.r. f Gonzalez et al. (2006). Mid-Wales. 2011). i Bird et al. n. which led to cattle mately 90... 2008).. 2006).4 891. Hungary (October 4.0 53. (2006). indicating the heightened mobility of the latter arid areas.6 31.2–10) (32–760) (44–920) (100–3200) Abaróa. Elevated concentra- 155. (1996). releasing approxi. n. d Hudson-Edwards et al. Most significantly. 80 245 (12–206) (76–458) Kolontar. Mining had the Alcudia Valley. well in in overbank flood sediments remained above 1000 mg kg 1 excess of the 24 h Province of Ontario’s Ambient Air Quality Guide- (Dennis et al. (2003).000 mg kg 1 (Dennis et al. Partic. Zn) in the finer tailings fractions has also been reported from San Similarly. Similarly.000 tonnes of tailings to Beartrap Creek and Blackfoot poisoning and subsequent mortality.r. by the River Clarach. contaminants are often preferentially 20 cross-valley transects at 5 km intervals. b Liu et al. with As. n. (2000). / Applied Geochemistry 51 (2014) 229–245 239 Table 4 (continued) 1 1 1 1 Incident/area Cd (mg kg ) Cu (mg kg ) Pb (mg kg ) Zn (mg kg ) (1. following either a spill or the ongoing effects of chronic con- It should not be assumed that mining-related contaminants are tamination.8 1447 8. short-term when contaminants will be partitioned into a non- als are provided by the UK Yorkshire River Swale related to reworked surface layer. Luis Potosí. Hudson-Edwards et al. 2009). Mn and Zn.. als from historically polluted floodplain sediments by bank erosion these particular tailings piles have been used for off road racing. D. = standard deviation.7 T6 30 km downstream 54.r..9 1870 9. Although not permanently stored in fixed fluvial sedimentary reservoirs. (2005).r.r. h Macklin et al. n. 2000). Mexico (Castro-Larragoitia et al. n. 2014). can be significant (Csavina et al. 85 216 (63–114) (131–279) Chilcobija Mine (n = 2) n. Furthermore. which failed on 19 June 1975..3 458. illustrative example is the Mike Horse (Montana. (2011) established the presence of As river channels downstream of mined tributaries reached concen.r.9 182. j Villarroel et al. An exceeding 30.. 2011). varied as a function of the particular contami. wind was shown to be a significant trans- widespread floods in 2000 and. s. (2011). Spain (Rodríguez et al. a Macklin et al. Kossoff et al. Australia .. more trations ranging from 65 to 1040 ng m 3. 2003).r. (1990). Pb and is stored within fluvial sediments in the Swale catchment.r. k Mayes et al. in a not taken place in the Swale catchment for more than 100 years study of tailings from abandoned Au mines in Nova Scotia and yet Pb concentrations in 2000 flood sediments within trunk (Canada). = non-detectable.. Macklin et al. USA) tailing silage produced from flood affected fields was found to contain up impoundment. (2009) have calculated that which both prejudiced the health of the users.75 356. 2012).. directly related to a tailings dam spill.000 mg kg 1 (Foulds et al. 2010)k 1 1 1 1 As (mg kg ) Mn (mg kg ) Mo (mg kg ) V (mg kg ) Reference samples (n = 18) 3. g Martin et al. (2002).d. except perhaps in the ularly striking examples of the remobilisation of contaminant met. line for As of 3000 ng m 3 (Corriveau et al. to 1900 mg kg 1 of sediment-associated Pb. revealed that metal partitioned into the finer soil and sediment fractions as a conse- concentrations declined downstream of Mike Horse.9 1606 7. 466 1105 (330–610) (587–1515) Upstream of Rio Machocuya (n = 4) n. windblown mobilization of the finer grain fraction from group of elements (Vandeberg et al. during the flood event. port mechanism for contamination around an old Pb–Zn mine in Mid-Wales.7 433.. Cd and Pb declining at a significantly faster rate than (Dennis et al.9 T4 10 km downstream 50. or 28% of the estimated total production. Bolivia (February 2003)j Floodplain soils (n = 14) n.8 562.4 Mean concentration with range in brackets. Corriveau et al. and the resulting heightened capacity to sorb contaminants nant. n. (2008). River as a result (Stiller. involving In terms of particle size. One of the sample sites than 80 km downstream of the mining district. The rate of quence of their comparatively high surface area to volume ratio decline.7 Fly ash from impoundment wall (n = 9) 29. 94 310 (27–241) (103–643) Tailings Abaróa Mine (n = 3) n. In arid/semi- Cu. in the historically mined Clarach catchment.5 2565 14.

5). (2008). during which 4. gradients declined enabling finer particles to be deposited. Additionally. especially under alkaline immediate aftermath of the 2010 Ajkai. In the mobile and probably phytotoxic. Remediation of tailings dam failures and metalloids were not as high as had been initially feared. (2005) determined As. used with permission from W.240 D. Hungary spill the red mud conditions (Ma et al. considerably reduced the medium- and long-term impacts on wildlife in the catchment (Hudson- Edwards et al. and V. These comparatively low contaminant concentrations were attributed to Several options exist for remediation of tailings dam failures. Macklin et al. Tennessee. cleanup. These actions. A portion of the Pailaviri tailings deposit which lies within the Huayna Mayu the Chenzhou tailings dam. policies need to be developed that monitor. 2006. both the success of the counter-measures employed in the Barriers can be constructed to contain the spilled material and pre- immediate aftermath of the spill and the very fine grain size of vent it from spreading further. is the removal of the spilled tailings from the affected areas to a storage area.. / Applied Geochemistry 51 (2014) 229–245 (Gulson et al. metals and metalloids that form oxyanions in future adverse effects. 2008. 2000. emergency removal of the tailings from the Ríos Agrio and Guadiamar began on May 3. A survey conducted in the Ajka spill-affected area in December 2010 by Mayes et al. Contaminant concentrations were indeed significantly .. by the Aznalcóllar–Los Frailes tailings dam spill. Cr and Mn (Renforth et al.15 mg kg 1). 1994). In order to address these issues. a specific concern with coal fly ash is that ination by spills from sulfide tailings repositories. Turner et al. Liu et al. The Pailaviri tailings are less than 100 m from Huayna Mayu. and therefore directly inhalable. particularly from the floodplain’s The data presented thus far largely describe floodplain contam. The flood of tailings and acidic the tailings particles. however. (Mayes et al. Moderate concentrations of metals and metalloids were In summary. particularly As. 2003). The alkaline conditions following red mud contamina- scale of the spill (at 4. Furthermore. The coal combustion products occurred as a result of the collapse of a Ca from gypsum also improved soil structure by displacing Na from containing dam at Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Kingston exchange complexes in clay minerals (Ruyters et al. Hudson-Edwards et al. 2014) and the fine particle size of the ash rendered the material prone to aer- Potosí. 2000). 2012). principally to lower the pH in an concentrations in floodplain soils (54. USA) on 28 December 2008. 2011. surface.. Bolivia. 2011. 1999). part of the Ten.. Such tailings piles are also highly susceptible to wind transport.. However. Cu.. and these were delivered to the tailings dam failures. to adequately assess medium.. 1999. 2009). and the walls that were constructed at Entremuros. and hotspots of floodplain the Doñana National Park. Cd. Aluminium exhibited elevated was treated with gypsum.. consequently the applica- not the largest.. Madejón et al. which drains to the Ribera de la Vera Cruz. but also to sorb or co-precipi- relative to background concentrations (22. From tents in cereals. 2012). tailings spill on record. A second phase of cleanup took place during the summer of 1999 which removed a further 1 million m3 of material to the pit (Eriksson and Adamek. a massive release of the associated precipitation of these potential contaminants. The Fe and Al oxides in the channel and floodplain dynamics. 2011). (2010) also advocated repeated applications of nessee’s catchment. These. however. In Hunan. Kombat. The coal ash spilled into the River Emory. water arising from the 1998 Aznalcóllar–Los Frailes spill was Nevertheless. 1998.. historical river wider fluvial system following the spill. 2003). 2008). continuing to December of that year. solution. such as As. current floodplain contaminant red mud are strong sorbents of metals. 2002).. 2003). Bolivia (Strosnider et al. Mo. less than 2 km from the location (see above).to long-term present in the red mud sludge released during the Ajka (Hungary) hazards posed by floodplain contamination resulting from mine red mud spill (Mayes et al. Strosnider.785–75.7 million m3 of contaminated soil and vegetation was removed to the Los Frailes open pit (Grimalt et al..f. ial dispersion after its release.160 mg kg 1) exchange reaction with bicarbonate. Hizal et al. uated. most of which form cations hotspots and their susceptibility to remobilisation must all be eval- in solution when solubilized (Hashim et al. systems. 2011). et al. southern China. Namibia (Mileusnić et al.. pH of the red mud (Renforth et al.. Fig. The et al. and river and a UNESCO Reserve of the Biosphere (Grimalt et al.829–27. selected portions of the floodplain were cleaned up immediately after the collapse of Fig.. Following the Aznalcóllar–Los Frailes spill. pulses and vegetables collected 17 years after the Strosnider et al.H. By analyzing the data from field experiments. 2011).. Hudson-Edwards et al... One of Chemicals can be added to affected soils to reduce the mobility of the main elements of concern is the aluminium. It appears as though this was an effective measure in lowering pH To further illustrate the variety and potentially large scale of and thus ameliorating the more severe effects of the spill through contamination following tailings dam failure. Pb and Zn con- pictured.. 5. Kossoff et al. if tion increased the mobility of phosphate. Cr. The ash contained high levels of As organic amendments to promote long-term sustainability of the (75 mg kg 1) and Hg (0. 2012). McLean and Johnes. and to mitigate possible 2013). The most common remedial measure taken for tailings dam spills.292 mg kg 1) tate contaminants. Renforth dam (near Harriman. significant residual concentrations of contaminants impeded by walls at Entremeros that were constructed to protect were present in the floodplain soils. and thereby reduced the inorganic contaminant extractability. small. which held wastes from a Pb–Zn mine watershed. are of more concern because manage and remediate the fluvial environment in susceptible of the net negative charge on the oxides brought about by the high catchments (cf. as well as significant levels chemical stabilization of inorganic contaminants in soils affected of radioactivity (226Ra + 228Ra) (Ruhl et al. a catchment’s mining history. which is highly the contaminants or neutralize the acidic or alkaline fluids. the largest reserve for birds in Europe contamination occurred where river sinuosity increased.. indicating the enormous tion of fertilizer was recommended to the affected soils (Ruyters volume of coal waste material stored (c. These organic amendments significantly increased pH and total organic carbon contents of the amended soils.. particles with a diameter do not represent the only tailings-derived contamination of river of less than 10 lm are relatively common.1 million m3) makes it one of the largest. allowing for efficient dispersion and dilution. (2011) showed that concentrations of aqueous and sorbed metals 6..

Moreover. have been used completely in September 2001. 2012a. 2012). Mn oxides. This approach could be readily adopted for forecasting the Aznalcóllar spill. to pay anything. calcite. they propose a conceptual model of within recommended guidelines. Since December 2011 the Spanish Supreme Court has comparatively thin layer of tailings from a dam breach lying atop declared that the construction companies are not guilty of wrong- a floodplain and exposed to the atmosphere. Table 4). and this was lusian Government and the Spanish Environmental Ministry had attributed to the greater supply of O2(g) in the former. rainfall and periodic doing and that Boliden is responsible for the spill. southwest ance (Willis. clays. 70% Mn. although it is yet river flood inundations promotes maximum oxidation. Here we primarily vein ores. which affected Hungary and the former Yugoslavia the pore waters in this column had fallen from c. (2002a. 40% S. concentrations in seeds and fruits were much lower and generally Based on these results.. 1996. as exemplified by the Baia Mare and Baia Borsa incidents contaminated floodplain. 2001). Cd and Pb (Liu et al. operators and constructors of tailings dams operate at spatial and temporal scales beyond those typically used may be exposed to huge environmental liability and associated in point-source remediation (Macklin. caus. ings sourced from the Bolivian polymetallic Cerro Rico de Potosí infrastructure and people (e. Modeling could mine was huge. deleterious because river erosion and sedimentation processes Evidently owners. particularly those undertaken within around 190 million Euros and compensation was paid to the inhab- areas of historical metal mining. Economic impacts of tailings dam failures together with quartz. Furthermore. there are also the socio-economic and politi- seasons. significant amounts of the major and trace ele.. with the dismissal of all 425 to predict present and future levels and patterns of contamination. (2002a. risk may be transferred via insur- The inadvertent destabilization of the Guadiamar River. In addition. which of the Río Pilcomayo. employees. chalcopyrite. The impact of business interruption for Boliden’s Los Frailes scale tailings spill. Kossoff et al. 2014). 2014). and in August 2002 it was estimated that the Anda- only mixed soil and tailings without the tailings cap. To date they have received layer of tailings was in constant contact with the atmosphere. By the end of the experiment. pyr. Aznalcóllar–Los Frailes spill and an excellent summary is provided ite. These losses were attributed to the dissolution of minerals and their insurers may be exposed to is highlighted by the 1998 such as arsenopyrite. gypsum. were a function of crop variety. sent the most significant environmental liability. (2013) have more recently demonstrated that in rice grown on the unremediated land was 6. For example. Fe-bearing sphalerite and especially. 80% Ca. and sulfides of zinc. Zn. Moreover. 2. and floodplain soil from an uncontaminated tributary consider two important economic consequences of failures. were used.. Readily available and comprehensive data on the economic ing most of the Cd. tourism and nature longevity of contamination with greater than 70% of the deposited conservation in the region affected (Koziell and Omosa. One column had a tailings layer placed on cal issues associated with transboundary migration of effluent in top of soil and tailings to model the effects of a dam failure on a rivers.4 mg kg 1). For mining and processing operations tailings typically repre- pyrite.g. with the Kossoff et al. (2011.5 due (Lucas. such as year and subsequently mining and milling operations shut down those developed by Coulthard and Macklin (2003). opment of acid mine drainage (Blowes et al. / Applied Geochemistry 51 (2014) 229–245 241 lower in crops grown on the remediated soil. estimates are as high as 5000 for other jobs Coulthard and Macklin’s (2003) study also revealed the exceptional lost in connection with agriculture. respectively.b) used tailings from events. fishing. For comparison.. 3% Al. 90% Cd. ment.. and lead.g. the pH of in Romania. catchment-scale remediation effectiveness based on three factors: The importance of removing sulfide tailings from affected soils (i) the degree of contaminant source coupling with the drainage following dam spills was reinforced by column weathering exper. In addition. Co and Zn to be leached from the columns. but even in these soils contaminants remaining in the historically mined Swale catch- the Chinese MAC values were exceeded by the mean concentra. as the top spent 276 million Euros on the cleanup. (2011. the Cd concentration Gamarra et al. is a cautionary tale particularly when large third party material damage or casualties in this respect (Turner et al. which obligates ments had been leached from the columns over the three calendar a polluting party to pay for any and all damage it causes to the years (e. The tailings were composed mainly of pyrite (76%). copper.b) experiments. 2003). 2011). 50% Cu. to predict precisely how river systems will recover after a large. and (iii) the frequency of sediment transport et al. the Baia Mare cleanup cost Local remedial measures. to oxidation of arsenopyrite. Kossoff et al. Proportionately more material was by WISE (2013) using Spanish media reports. and conducted experiments to determine the major tailings dam spills. par. 2003. Macklin et al. The columns were subjected to are business interruption (down time of mining and processing 20 cycles (over three calendar years) of alternating wetting and operations) and environmental damage and cleanup. but nobody else (Banerjee. and floodplain soil from the affected Guadia. contaminated floodplain soils and vegetation.. therefore. 7 to c. Although drying with simulated Bolivian rainwater to mimic wet and dry not considered here. 30% As. 2012a. D. can often be ineffective or even itants of Baia Mare. it is very difficult occur and authorities close down an operation (e. economic losses and. The environmental liability that mining companies 60% Zn).b) and by Kossoff sediment delivery. .g. Boliden has tried to claim damages of the order of 115 million 2003) and this process is catalysed by the presence of water. The pH of the pore waters fell to c. compilations usually focusing on impacts on the environment. sulfidic mine tail. 2006). 134 million Euros from this mining company.99 mg kg 1 (the similar remediation strategies may result in differing effects Chinese critical maximum level is 0.b).. For impacts of tailings dam failures are limited and incomplete. After the spill in April 1998 mining ceased for a provide a way forward and landscape evolution models. Mahrla. 2005. 2008). (ii) the ratio of contaminated to non-contaminated iments carried out by Domènech et al. biotite. environment. WISE. (2012a) concluded that a damages. by dredging of its channel to remove tailings and removal of further losses arising from business and supply chain interruption. whereas the Cd depending on catchment topography and hydrological regimes. c. the likely speed and trajectory of catchment recovery following mar catchment. Domènech et al. with or without remediation. northern England. 7.. for more than 200 years after mine clo- tions of As. no compensation from Boliden and are still trying to obtain at least Oxygen fugacity is one of the most important factors in the devel. tailings dam failures may lead to Spain. The spill occurred on lost from this column than from another column which contained 25 April 1998. Based on realistic simulations of a hybrid landscape a significant extent. 2 after 260 days. sphalerite and wurtzite. the adverse effects of metal contamination evolution model combined with stochastic rainfall generation. Euros from the constructors (and their insurers) of the failed dam ticularly when the water contains low concentrations of dissolved and an additional 134 million Euros to cover environmental ions such as Na+ and Cl . network. In the meantime. Romano et al. to sure. mechanisms and kinetics of tailings oxidation by means of labora- tory flow-through experiments at different pH and oxygen pres- sures.

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