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A comparative analysis between closure of tailings dams and environmental liabilities

Paper from the Proceedings of Mine Closure Solutions 2014 conference held in Ouro Preto, Brazil, April 26-30, 2014. (downloadable PDF).

Authors: Débora do Vale Schaper and Giani Aparecida Santana Aragão, Pimenta de Ávila Consultoria, Brazil

Published by InfoMine Inc. 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-9917905-4-8


A big responsibility exists for the whole productive chain involved in operating a mine, and part of it lies in the system of tailings disposal, as significant failures in this system may lead to the complete breakdown of activities or even in accidents with disastrous consequences. The risks associated with these structures remain through the entire life cycle, and can be even more critical in cases of abandonment or inappropriate decommissioning. Among the objectives of closure plans for tailings dams, most important are the guarantee of safety and public health in the long term and ensuring that environmental resources will not be subjected to physical and chemical deterioration. The costs associated with the closure of these structures may represent a significant portion of the financial resources provisioned for closing the entire mine unit, and may considerably influence the decisions made by the mine team. The purpose of this article is to make a comparative assessment of the aspects related to the costs involved in tailings dam closure and aspects related to the costs of leaving an environmental liability and possibly harmful results caused by the abandonment of these structures. The planning, decommissioning, and closure of tailings dams generally include costs associated with the development of a closure plan, the implementation of technical solutions, and the procedures of maintenance and monitoring during periods of closure and postclosure. It is even appropriate to include in these analyses the financial possibilities that come from the future land use established for the area, which may or may not result in the development of an alternative use that can generate economic value. On the other hand, costs related to environmental liabilities are associated with estimates that imply measures of permanent maintenance and control, as well as estimates of monetary values associated with potential damage in these structures, which may incur remediation, rehabilitation, and compensation in case of accidents.

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