The Hecla Greens Creek polymetallic mine in Alaska has the longest serving surface filtered tailings disposal facility in the mining industry. Filtered tailings disposal is seen as one of the best available solutions for tailings stewardship for certain operations especially: low to mid-production mine; footprint constrained or mines requiring water recovery; and reduced long-term risk. However, there are a limited number of operational examples of this technology. This paper, which is Part I of a two-part case history, describes the key lessons learned over 25 years of construction of the filtered tailings stack. Challenges that have been faced include the wet cold climate, variations in ore body and process affecting filtered tailings characteristics, and the constraints of a tight footprint. This operations-focused case history will provide valuable insights into operational challenges that have been successfully dealt with at Greens Creek over a prolonged period. The lessons learned at this site will be of value to others considering or planning similar facilities in any climate.
Erickson, B., D. Butikofer, A. Marsh, R. Friedel, L. Murray and MJ. Piggott. 2017. “Filtered Tailings Disposal Case History: Operation and Design Considerations Part I.” in Proceedings, International Conference on Tailings and Mine Waste, Banff, Alberta, Canada, November 5-8, 2017. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta Geotechnical Centre, 2017.
For Part II in this two-part paper, click here.