Jack Caldwell - Mining Engineer - Robertson GeoConsultants

Abstracts for the Tailings and Mine Waste Conference 2012 to be held in Keystone, Colorado October 14-17, 2012 are due the end of this week. Here is one idea that should be written up, but probably won’t. How about somebody out there volunteering to write a survey of the work that Roy Soderberg did for tailings? I met him once in about 1980 and I recall he was a true gentleman. I was reminded of him when I managed the other day to download a pdf of his work written in 1969 with C.D. Kealy called Design of Dams for Mill Tailings. I have a full copy but cannot find the link to it. Here is a link to a book version. This is an amazing volume for its time. Here is it abstract:

The Bureau of Mine studied tailings disposal problems at mines throughout the United States to identify design principles that can be applied to all types of dams for mill tailings. Computer programs for stability analyses and phreatic waterline estimation are also reviewed in this circular, which presents the Bureau’s recommendation for constructing effective, long-lasting tailings dams.

The 1969 document was updated and expanded and republished in 1977 with Roy L. Soderberg and Richard A. Busch as authors. This time it was called Design Guide for Metal and Nonmetal Tailings Disposal. Again, I have a full pdf downloaded without ado sometime last week from the web. Now I cannot find the link or the volume try as I might. Let me know if you want me to send you my copy. Here is the abstract:

The Bureau of Mines has conducted substantial research on the design, construction, and operation of metal and nonmetal tailings ponds. This design guide, like related Bureau publications that preceded it, is produced to assist the industry in the management of mill tailings disposal. It covers the site selection, sampling, laboratory testing, design, construction, operation, and inspection of tailings embankments. The effects of environment, topography, and hydrogeology are also included, and various methods of stability analysis and factors affecting stability are reviewed. Because of the diversity of problems encountered in tailings embankments, specific solutions are not intended. The guide is, however, a useful checklist for designers, operators, and inspectors of this type of structure.

The January 2009 Reference Document on Best Available Techniques for Management of Tailings and Waste-Rock in Mining Activities published by the European Commission, is a worthy modern successor to the two earlier volumes. This is the scope and origin of this fine work:

This work covers activities related to tailings and waste-rock management of ores that have the potential for a significant environmental impact. In particular the work sought out activities that can be considered as examples of “good practice”. Mining techniques and mineral processing are only covered as relevant to tailings and waste-rock management. The intention is to raise awareness of such practices and promote their use across all activities in this sector.

The starting point for the work and the actual development of this document is the Communication from the European Commission COM (2000) 664 on the ‘Safe Operation of Mining Activities’. As a follow-up to the tailings dam bursts in Aznalcollar and Baia Mare this Communication proposed a follow-up action plan to be taken, which includes the elaboration of a BAT Reference Document based on an exchange of information between the European Union’s Member States and the mining industry. This document is the result of this information exchange. It has been developed as a Commission initiative and in anticipation of the proposed Directive on the management of waste from extractive industries.

The above-mentioned failures have brought public attention to the management of tailings ponds and tailings dams. However, it should not be forgotten that the collapse of tailings and waste-rock heaps can also cause severe environmental damage. The dimensions of either type of facility can be enormous. Dams can be tens of metres high, heaps even more than 100 m high and several kilometres long possibly containing hundreds of millions of cubic metres of tailings or waste-rock. According to the Eurostat yearbook 20032 more than 300 million tonnes of mining and quarrying waste is estimated to be generated annually in the EU-15.

My point is that somebody should write a tribute to Roy Soderberg. I did not know him well enough to do it. I would have to work from his publications. Surely there is somebody out there who knew him and worked with him and can write about him. I cannot find anything about him on Google.