University of Tasmania

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Geometallurgical evaluations of mine waste – an example from the Old Tailings Dam, Savage River, Tasmania

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 11:10 authored by Anita Parbhakar-Fox, Fox, N, Jackson, L

Characterisation of sulfide minerals (eg pyrite, sphalerite) in historic tailings can assist in determining whether there are economic benefits of reprocessing such materials using modern metallurgical practices. In addition, there are associated environmental advantages if the historic tailings are actively generating acid and metalliferous drainage (AMD). At the Old Tailings Dam (OTD), Savage River, Western Tasmania, 38 Mt of pyritic tailings were deposited from 1967 to 1982; consequently it has been recognised as an AMD source. Long-term management options considered for this site have included the establishment of either a water, hard-engineered or vegetation cover. However, due to geotechnical challenges posed and the lack of success demonstrated by previous pilot studies, these strategies have not been implemented. Instead, resolving the pyrite chemistry can allow for a first-pass assessment of whether reprocessing these tailings is a feasible option as part of a long-term management strategy for this legacy site.

Tailings samples (n = 144) were collected across the OTD from up to 2 m depth from five facies (A–E), and four zones (1 to 4; defined by hydrological regime and grain size). These materials were subjected to acid-base accounting (ABA) and mineralogical evaluations to determine their geoenvironmental characteristics. Following this, 26 samples were selected for in-depth laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) investigations to evaluate pyrite chemistry across different tailings facies. The results revealed enrichment of Co and Ni in these materials. Specifically, Co content was up to 3.0 wt per cent, particularly within facies C to E, and Zones 3 and 4. Cobalt is recognised as a critical metal, therefore, reprocessing should be considered as a future rehabilitation option for the OTD, pending resource definition using established codes and practices.


Publication title

Proceedings of the 3rd AusIMM International Geometallurgy Conference 2016


SC Dominy, L O’Connor






School of Natural Sciences


The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

Place of publication


Event title

3rd AusIMM International Geometallurgy Conference 2016

Event Venue

Perth, Australia

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Evaluation, allocation, and impacts of land use

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