6 April 2022
A tailings dam failure in Wenquan Township, Shanxi Province, China
Yesterday my friends at World Mine Tailings Failures alerted me to a report from China of a tailings facility failure in Wenquan Township, Jiaokou County, Shanxi Province, China. The report provides limited detail, the salient points of which are as follows:-
On the afternoon of March 27, a landslide occurred in a material yard of Shanxi Daoer Aluminum Co., Ltd.
According to reports, at around 17:00 on March 27, a tailings pond of Daoer Company, located in Wenquan Township, Jiaokou County, broke a dam. Part of the factory area was buried; a large pit was formed in the tailings pond, the dam body was flushed with a gap of about 70 to 80 meters, and the mud accumulation blocked the local road...According to the report of the People’s Government of Jiaokou County, after preliminary inspection, a landslide occurred in a material storage yard of Daoer Company in the county, causing 7.5 mu of arbor forest land to be buried, more than 200 meters of seasonal ditches and rural roads were blocked, and part of the surrounding walls of adjacent enterprises were washed away. No casualties were found.
I have been able to track this event down on Planet imagery. The area around Wenquan Township is decimated by mining, but the tailings failure stands out quite clearly:-
The location of the tailings dam failure is 37.1059, 111.4301. The mobilised tailings appear to have moved about 700 m from the crest of the scar to the toe of the waste, or about 500 m from the edge of the failed retaining structure to the toe of the dam.
I have created a Juxtapose slider to compare a Planet image from before the failure (collected on 7 March 2022) with the one after (collected on 28 March 20222 – the day after the collapse):-
There are inevitable resolution limitations in this genuinely amazing daily Planet imagery, but it confirms aspects of the report in the news report. In the runout zone the tailings have clearly partially inundated an industrial facility – presumably the concentrator – and a road is blocked. The remainder of the tailings are mostly covering vegetated slopes.
The most recent (5 April 2022) imagery suggests that the road has been cleared and the tailings have been covered in a grey material. I am unsure as to what this might be.
The Wenquan Township event is not a large tailings failure, and the runout is comparatively modest. Nonetheless, it is of concern given the number of such facilities in China.
Planet Team (2022). Planet Application Program Interface: In Space for Life on Earth. San Francisco, CA. https://www.planet.com/