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Neil McIntyre: Flooding of abandoned tailings dumps - how to assess the risks?
Abandoned and inactive tailings storage facilities (TSFs) can pose environmental and health risks through failure or gradual release of contaminants into the atmosphere and/or water courses. Usually these legacies of historical mining are passed to governments to manage. Since this may involve risk management covering 100s or 1000s of individual sites, risk-based prioritisation is required using methods that are practical over broad areas without major investment in new data. One source of risk is flooding of TSF embankments or tailings dumps that sit on flood plains. This presentation will outline the analysis options available, describe the context in Chile, and then describe a study into using simplified flood models to prioritise TSFs in terms of their exposure to extreme floods. A case study of Copiapo, Chile, which hosts 75 abandoned or inactive TSFs, is used. The reliability of the simple models in terms of the degree of exposure of the TSFs to flood water are benchmarked against a relatively complex and time-consuming hydrodynamic model. The significance of the results and the way forward for regional to national-scale risk assessment of abandoned TSFs are discussed. This research is being conducted by Gabriel Perez Murillo as part of his PhD, in collaboration with SMI-ICE-Chile, CSIRO and University College London.

Oct 20, 2020 09:00 AM in Brisbane

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