The March 2007 International Mining includes a supplement on Paste Tailings Management. This valuable supplement includes the following articles:

  1. Paste Thickeners Evolving to Higher Capacity and Efficiencies – a discussion of recent design advances and the fundamentals of design.
  1. Tilting the Balance – developments pushing companies toward underground paste tailings disposal and improvements in the technology that are helping drive it.
  1. Is The Last Drop Worth It – notes on progress in the last 15 to 20 years in developing thickeners capable of producing higher density underflow.
  1. First Coal Paste Thickener – description of the first past thickener for coal sludge thickening.
  1. Long Distance Pumping – description of how Lisheen mine pumps backfill of distances of up to 5 km.

The papers pay tribute to Eli Robinsky who started the whole idea of thickened tailings in the late 1960s when he became involved in the Kidd Creek Project. Today the field is best described by a list of the advertisers in the supplement: WesTech; Larox; Ciba; DRA Mineral Projects; Supaflo; UCSolutions.

Susan Longo of Golder Associates’ PasteTec division notes that factors “pushing” the use of thickened tailings include the need to conserve water; underground disposal limits long-term liability; and the benefits of precluding subsidence. She notes that the “pull” side of using thickened tailings includes: better economics; and minimization of waste handling. She concludes with these insightful words:

“Technology improvements, in terms of the dewatering and pumping equipment as well as a better understanding of paste material characterizations along with the expertise to manipulate these properties to suit each application, have made paste a much more palatable option. A final factor pushing on the balance comes through familiarity. Given the small size of the global mining community and the nature of its members to move around, it is increasingly likely that a mining professional will have worked on a project that uses paste technology. They have become familiar with paste – its advantages along with its limitations and the result is that paste technology is a growing application for underground backfill around the world.”