Wind Erosion Of Tailings Dams And Mitigation Of The Dust Nuisance

Blight, G. E.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 10
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2007
Wind erosion can be a major cause of the loss and dispersion of tailings material from a tailings dam into its surrounding environment. Such dust dispersion can be a serious nuisance, as well as a health hazard to inhabitants in nearby settlements, and can also damage the health of animals, degrade crops, making them less marketable, and cause soil and water pollution. The problem of wind erosion can affect tailings dams in all types of climate, but becomes worse as climatic aridity increases. Because clouds of dust are often observed billowing across the top surfaces of tailings dams in dry windy weather, there is a common misconception that the dust arises from wind erosion of the top surface. As a result, much effort and money is vainly spent on treating the tops of tailings dams to prevent dust generation, whereas the slopes of the dams are the true major dust source. This paper briefly reviews what is known of erosion of tailings dams and then proceeds to describe the mechanics of wind erosion in general, and how it affects tailings dams in particular. Finally, recommendations are made for mitigating wind erosion of tailings dams and the resulting blowing dust.
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