Project Tasks  
Workpackage 0: Project Management  
  1. Administrative and scientific coordination of the project including reporting and maintaining internal communication
  2. Construction and maintenance of a parameter spreadsheet/database framework for defining and tracking common parameters across all workpackages
  3. Promotion and coordination of general dissemination activities
  4. Organisation and servicing of panel of expert industry advisers to inform, critique and validate project directions, work and outputs
Workpackage 1: Definitions - Technologies and Parameters  

Technology and procedures definition and review; standard parameters identification and ranges. Review of the following issues:

  1. Existing mineral processing methods, with special emphasis on tailings production and water management
  2. Existing slurry handling, treatment and transport techniques, including dewatering and paste technologies
  3. Existing tailings placement and lagoon and dam design and formation practices
  4. Existing authorisation, management, monitoring and inspection practices

From these data and experiences the relevant parameters governing the safety of tailings facilities will be extracted, defined and evaluated regarding their significance. The normal ranges of these parameters will be noted and compiled into the parameter spreadsheet format.

Workpackage 2: Analysis - Risks and Reliability  

Evaluation of impact, risk, instability and failure mechanisms; critical parameter levels and sensitivities. Mechanisms leading to reduced or non-existing safety margins for tailings facilities will be surveyed. Consideration will be given to the impacts of such facilities onto environmental and human safety, the risks posed by unsafe facilities, unstable conditions in existing tailings dams, and relevant failure mechanisms (e.g., overtopping, dam breaches). The critical parameters will be quantitatively described and their sensitivity indicated. Review covering the following issues:

  1. Operational or disused tailings facilities interacting 'normally' or 'as intended' with their environment (excluding mechanisms of catastrophic failure)
  2. Operational or disused tailings facilities impaired by adverse factors, natural or human (including mechanisms of catastrophic failure)
  3. Bodies of fine material, with particular attention to their moisture content, structural stability, flow-deformation behaviour, and liquefaction
  4. Bodies of such material containing toxic and/or hazardous substances, with particular attention to the release of contaminants

For parameters where sufficient data do not exist or are not available, data collection by means of field measurements or sampling and analysing will be conducted, where practicable.

Workpackage 3: Intervention Actions  

Identification of intervention action options for dangerous or impaired tailings facilities plus parameters relevant to their choice/implementation. The following aspects are addressed in subworkpackages:

  1. Evacuation of tailings pond content, in whole or part, by digging, dredging, pumping, breaching: Ranges of equipment/methods available, including for access, and typical parameters of materials they can deal with.
  2. Treatment of tailings pond content in situ, including dewatering, by chemical or other means: Dewatering by e.g. colloid addition, vegetation, and chemical or biological treatments to immobilise or ameliorate contaminants, and typical parameters of materials they can deal with.
  3. Strengthening of tailings impoundment by conventional engineering methods: Methods of strengthening by muckshift, rock facing, sheet piling, drainage works, grouting, sandbagging, geosynthetical structures etc, and typical parameters for impoundments where they may be applicable.
  4. Strengthening of tailings impoundment by less conventional methods: More novel approaches involving injection of clogging agents upstream, use of geotextiles, floating booms, cable anchorage, etc.

The workpackage reflects the intent of the project to focus on parameter measurement relating to risk reduction, and a concern to ensure that it addresses risk reduction not in an abstract way but by reference to practical intervention options.

Workpackage 4: Prevention and Remediation  

To assist the implementation and improvement of the full range of prevention, mitigation, or amelioration measures by establishing associated parameter trigger/target levels and sampling location and frequency requirements. Risk reduction needs to be seen not only in relation to the remediation of dangerous or impaired facilities, but to preventing their construction or damage in the first place. The workpackage includes the following subworkpackages:

  1. Implementation and improvement of design and authorisation procedures for proposed tailings facilities. Parameter sampling and levels which could prevent the need for intervention if addressed in design and authorisation.
  2. Implementation and improvement of water management and paste technology for reducing tailings facility hazards. In order to increase tailings facility safety, physical parameters (slurry consistency, grain size distribution, particle surface properties etc.) will be suitably influenced with the aim of establishing an optimum set of transport parameters and maximising stability of tailings dams and ponds. Management of water balance, including advances in paste technology will be the focus of interest, to reduce water quantities and costs, pond size and depth, and instability and pollution risks.
  3. Implementation and improvement of closure and restoration plans for disused tailings facilities. Parameter sampling and levels which could prevent the need for intervention if addressed in closure and restoration plans.
  4. Implementation and improvement of risk reduction actions for substandard or impaired tailings facilities. Parameter sampling and trigger/target levels for undertaking actions described in WP 3. Once deficiencies and potential intervention actions have been identified, a systematic approach is needed to tailor and undertake such actions. This workpackage will consider what general preparations may be possible to help ensure that sound routines are followed (albeit imaginatively) to support the rapid, safe and practical on-site development of such solutions.
  5. Improvement of management and inspection procedures and harmonisation of regulation and enforcement standards and criteria. Parameter sampling and levels which could prevent the need for intervention if addressed in management and inspection procedures. The emphasis here will be upon relating all the parameter evaluation work to the adoption of well defined and practical standards and criteria in the formal regulations and codes of practice which cover such procedures.
Workpackage 5: Investigation and Monitoring  

Review and development of measurement methods for investigating, monitoring and evaluating parameters critical to the safety and risk reduction of tailings facilities; stochastic modelling of sediment profiles, analysis of reliability and risk of tailings dams. The following subworkpackages are included:

  1. Basic mineralogical analysis, soil mechanics and contaminant survey of bodies of tailings. Sampling of dam and sludge material from model sites and mineralogical, geochemical and geotechnical analysis. Characterisation of the flow-deformation behaviour of fine hydraulically placed non-plastic materials. Collecting analogue data of other sites from reports and compiling them into a review database. Evaluation of own data in context of the review database, and integration of relevant data into the spreadsheet/parameter framework.
  2. Structural stability, simulation, modelling, reliability analysis of bodies of tailings and of tailing dams. Develop methods to deal with uncertain and random data which will be used to calculate the structural risk and the reliability. Implementation of the vectors in a GIS to get knowledge about the representativeness and statistics of data. Quantitative assessment of uncertainty and randomness of the data. Identification of limit state conditions and correlation of the several effects. Stability analysis with deterministic methods using the stochastic field of data in circular and wedged mechanisms of failure. Testing the methods of risk analysis originated in aerospace and nuclear industry for geotechnical issues of structural stability of tailings dams.
  3. Minimally intrusive methods (including geophysical) for the investigation and monitoring of tailings impoundments. Review, evaluation and development of geophysical, minimally intrusive and non-destructive (NDT) methods (surface based) for structural analysis and monitoring of tailings ponds dams as input for stability analysis and remediation/intervention planning. Development of geophysical and NDT methods for structure assessment of tailing pond dams. Development of geophysical and NDT methods for mapping and monitoring water and contaminant flow inside and off tailing ponds. Assessment of available NDT/geophysical monitoring technologies for relevance, reliability and cost effectiveness vis-à-vis critical ranges/frequencies of vital parameters
  4. Probes, sensors, instrumentation and integrated data evaluation for the investigation and monitoring of tailings impoundments. Review and adaptation of equipment (probes, sensors and instruments) for investigation and monitoring of tailings facilities. Where cost-effective solutions are not readily available, the work under this project will be limited to the specification of equipment or systems to do the job.
Workpackage 6: Field Experiments - Refinement and Testing  

Refinement and testing of suite of measurement methods, via case study applications at actual and model tailings facilities. The following subworkpackages are included in this workpackage:

  1. Choice and characterisation of case study sites on basis of critical parameters identified previously as set out in the spreadsheet framework. Site characterisation criteria based on the requirements of the technology developing workpackages. Test site selection according to the needs of the project partners for technology testing. Basic site characterisation and description on the base of available data. Additional characterisation by conventional methods to get calibration data for the new techniques. Preparation of test sites for technology testing (legal and technical issues).
  2. Trialling and refinement of improved measurement and evaluation methods at the case study sites. Adaptation/demonstration of proven technologies in tailings facility case situations. Testing of new investigation and monitoring techniques. Recommendations for stabilisation, remediation, technology changes and risk management for the test sites will be derived.
  3. Trialling and refinement of improved measurement and evaluation methods at a model tailings facility including simulated failure, subject to available funding and permissions. Design and construction of a pilot-scale tailings facility, equipping the dam with appropriate instruments enabling measurement and monitoring of all parameters. Artificially creating conditions leading to failure and 'performing' a controlled dam failure. The experimental tailings facility may be a model within a real one.
Workpackage 7: Application - Framework and Dissemination  

Explanation and dissemination to end users by offering and demonstrating a 'TAILSAFE' risk reduction framework. Development of the spreadsheet/database framework into a practical risk reduction tool for tailings facilities. Concluding dissemination of project results. The following subworkpackages are included:

  1. By drawing on successive outputs of previous workpackages, gradual conversion of the project's spreadsheet parameter framework into a characterisation, risk assessment, and risk reduction framework for tailings facilities.
  2. Integration into that risk reduction framework of standards and criteria, plus improved measurement and evaluation methods, for the harmonisation and enforcement of regulations for tailings facilities across the EU.
  3. Adaptation of that 'TAILSAFE' framework into a working tool with user guidelines, and its dissemination among industrial end users and regulators. The framework will be presented as a series of modules, through which a user can cycle, in checking out a particular problem situation or procedure. The objective is to produce a workable Mark I version, which attracts positive user feedback.
  4. By comparing final risk reduction framework with initial parameters framework, evaluation, with aid of expert advisory panel, of contribution of project itself to improvement of tailings facility safety. This comparison, by a panel independent of the project team, will enable verification of the degree to which the project has met its technological objectives.
The TAILSAFE Parameter Framework  

The quantified parameters resulting throughout the project will be incorporated into the TAILSAFE parameter framework. There the parameters will be tracked, refined and elaborated throughout the project and additions, changes, adaptations or adjustments made as appropriate. Attention will be given to the acquisition and organisation of metadata, both to aid proper data management within the TAILSAFE project, and to facilitate its use to others. Construction of a meaningful framework will not be so simple in practice. For instance, criticality is likely to be a dynamic attribute, with the critical parameters varying with problem situation and solution stage. The TAILSAFE framework intends to offer a systematic means of organising data from this targeted research, alongside data from elsewhere, in a way which relates them not only to assessing, but also to monitoring and reducing risk.

The TAILSAFE Expert Advisory Panel  

The project is accompanied by an independent panel to inform, critique and validate project directions, work and outputs, and guide the team in tackling issues of real innovation, practical importance and viability. The TAILSAFE Expert Advisory Panel is a group of independent individuals having a wealth of experience in the field, plus additional representatives from the minerals industry. The panel is UK-based for cost-effectiveness. The group will evaluate the project by comparing the final risk reduction framework with the initial parameter framework and by assessing the contribution of the project itself in terms of its capability for the improvement of tailings facilities safety.

The TAILSAFE shell has been created and is maintained by Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)


Project Tasks
5th Framework Programme Research Project
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