Senior Tailings Engineer Pierre Mainville discusses tailings management for the mining industry. Pierre spent 10 years working in underground mines before transitioning to consulting which affords him the opportunity to travel across the globe working on tailings and mine backfill projects.
Q: In recent years, tailings management has become a hot topic. Why?
Several high-profile tailings failures have put a spotlight on the topic over the past decade. These failures and the global attention they attract have resulted in people examining the risk associated with design of their tailings facilities. The outcome is an industry-wide desire to increase due diligence when it comes to tailings management strategies.
Q: What is Barr’s role in tailings management? What is your role?
As the conversation around tailings management has evolved, Barr has expanded our team and service offerings. Most tailings storage facilities utilize traditional slurry tailings, but over the past decade, we have helped an increasing number of clients implement thickened, paste, and filtered tailings systems. I joined Barr in early 2021 to help with this increased demand for high density tailings solutions and offer holistic strategies for tailings management to our clients.
Q: Getting more technical now: Filtered tailings disposal in dry stacks is often billed as a cure-all. Is this a fair assumption?
In some cases, filtered tailings is the best technology to employ, but not always. Each facility is unique, with site-specific constraints and opportunities that must be considered. For many facilities, use of thickened tailings is more feasible; among other potential benefits, it can improve water balance, increase facility capacity and lifespan, reduce energy costs, and align with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) requirements.
Q: Many operating mines that are past the permitting phase aren’t subject to the same scrutiny as a new project. Is there a reason for these mines to reconsider their tailings management method?
It is important for mining companies to show they are responsibly managing their tailings, even if they are following the requirements of their permit. Doing so is a crucial step in upholding their social license to operate, and it can facilitate development of future projects. Risk tolerance regarding tailings has changed, which can prompt a periodic review of tailings management strategies to ensure they align with current practices; in some cases, cost-savings could be realized by leveraging alternate tailings management technologies. Barr’s tailings management team is well-positioned to assist mining companies in evaluating tailings management technologies and can apply practical strategies for improving operations at both existing and new facilities.
Contact us to learn how we can help with your tailings management needs.
About Pierre Mainville
Senior Tailings Engineer Pierre Mainville spent 10 years working in underground mines before transitioning to consulting, which affords him the opportunity to travel across the globe working on tailings and mine backfill projects. Pierre has two decades of experience specializing in paste and hydraulic backfill consulting services for new and existing operations. He focuses on providing value through integration of backfill systems into the overall mining plan and tailings management strategy.