Tailings dam closure scenarios, risk communication, monitoring, and surveillance in Alberta

CIM Journal Preprints, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2020

H. L. Schafer, R. Macciotta, and N. A. Beier
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Tailings dams remain as a part of the landscape in perpetuity following mine closure. As many mines approach closure in the province of Alberta, Canada, it is becoming increasingly important to understand the long-term geotechnical behaviour of these facilities and the impact of various loading and environmental scenarios over long time periods. Research surrounding the closure of tailings dams has historically focused on planning for closure, with a limited focus on how the facility may evolve over time. This gap in research has implications for the design and development of policies that adequately account for long-term risk and uncertainty. This paper summarizes key themes identified during interviews interviews conducted with skilled practitioners to leverage their experiences and help fill the knowledge gap surrounding the long-term behaviour and policy-making for tailings dams. These include the impact of recent tailings dam failures, long-term monitoring and surveillance, potential closure scenarios, and risk communication.

Keywords: Alberta, Closure, Coal mine, Long-term behaviour, Oil sands mine, Tailings dam