Research to determine environmental impact of mine tailings

14 March 2022

A Townsville-based CQUniversity (CQU) environmental science student is conducting research to determine whether dry-stacking tailings would reduce the leaching of metals of concern into the environment.

Mine tailings are the materials left over after the process of separating valuable content from the uneconomic fraction.

Student Matthew Ayre is looking at the concentration of metals in the leachate to determine if dry-stacked tailings would minimise oxidation and leaching to meet project specific environmental authority (EA) requirements.

CQU Senior Lecturers Dr Nathan English and Dr Andrew Hammond are supervising the research and said Matthew's research would compare the leaching of metals of concern from tailings' reprocessed wet tailings and dry filtered (stacked) tailings.

"Dry stacked tailings are relatively new to Australia and Matthew's work will help inform the criteria and science around their use in tropical and sub-tropical Australia'" Dr English said.

The CQU research is in collaboration with Wulguru Technical Services (WTS).

WTS Director and CQU alumnus Scott Hayes-Stanley said the partnership demonstrated the innovative and productive impacts that research had on industry and environmental outcomes.

"We are excited to be involved in industry research that has the potential to offer improved environmental outcomes whilst still maintaining economic viability of projects. We look forward to being able to continue to develop new knowledge and capability by exploring innovations alongside industry and research institutions."

Matthew said he hoped his research would prove that dry-stacked tailings were a viable option for tailings in Australia.

"I hope the research will spur more interest in reducing the environmental impact of mining in Australia' especially after mine closure."