1 March 2009

A useful tailings dam failure resource

Posted by Dave Petley

Image of the Merriespruit Tailings Dam failure in South Africa (image from Tailings.org)

In the last year I have twice posted extensively about particular tailings dams failures and the resulting flowslides. The events in question were the 8th September 2008 Taoshi failure in Shaanxi, China and the 22nd December 2008 Tennessee Valley Authority failure in at the Kingston fossil plant in Harriman, Tennessee, USA.

The WISE Uranium project has some very interesting pages here on the safety of tailings dams. I would like to bring to your attention two particularly useful elements of this:

1. The site contains a novel narrated presentation on tailings dam stability.
2. Perhaps most usefully, the site also contains a chronology of major tailings dam failures from 1961 to the present.

The latter notes that it is not complete due to lack of data, but most of the largest events are probably recorded. It is depressing to note that the trend in occurrence through time has remained remarkably constant (see Fig. 1 below), suggesting that there is still much to do to reduce the occurrence of this type of disaster.

Fig. 1: Trend in recorded instances of tailings dam failures as recorded on the WISE Uranium project website.