The world’s fourth largest gold miner, Goldcorp, aims to dramatically reduce fresh water consumption and ultimately eliminate conventional slurry tailings. The EcoTails™ process and associated fast filtration and stacking technologies developed by FLSmidth are the key enablers. A key step in that process is the introduction of the filter technology EcoTails™, jointly developed by FLSmidth and Goldcorp.
“EcoTails truly has the potential to reduce the environmental impact of the mining industry, and we are proud to work on this project with Goldcorp’s Towards Zero Water strategy,” says Todd Wisdom, director of tailings systems at FLSmidth.
Sustainable waste management
EcoTails is a new way of thinking about mine waste management and water conservation. In essence, it blends filtered tailings with waste rock in transit and this creates a geotechnically stable product called GeoWaste™.
When blended properly, GeoWaste is easy to convey and has a high strength when stacked. EcoTails™ and GeoWaste makes dry stacking possible for large scale mining, even in areas with high seismic activity. In many instances, it is both economically and environmentally a competitive solution to wet tailings dams.
An industry-wide solution
Goldcorp and FLSmidth collaborated closely to develop and test EcoTails™. Currently, the project is undergoing a prefeasibility study due for completion in the first quarter of 2018, and as a parallel track, it is being developed as a potential solution at one of Goldcorp’s mine sites where water resources are scarce and valuable.
“The results are very promising, and I believe that when we have fine-tuned and proven the technology, we will see the solution implemented across the industry. It makes mining safer and more sustainable without increasing lifecycle costs. Right now the lifecycle costs for an EcoTails solution are close to those of thickened tailings and dam solutions,” says Todd Wisdom.
Increase productivity by reusing up to 95 percent of process water
The EcoTails solution makes it possible to reuse 90 - 95% of the process water, and since water is a large operational cost, this alone will significantly reduce total cost of ownership for many mines around the world.
“This is the essence of sustainable productivity improvement: miners are challenged by investors to deliver good returns that are also environmentally and socially responsible. Water management will be the limiting factor for many mines in the coming years. With less risk and more water recovered, EcoTails is competitive on a total cost basis – that should be interesting for the industry at large," says Todd Wisdom.