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HomeEducationEducation Spotlight: Focus on responsible tailings management 

Education Spotlight: Focus on responsible tailings management 

“At the time of the outage, I was on my last flight home from Brazil. I ended up at DIA, I turned on my phones and they just exploded,” she recalls. “One of the things I do believe is that experience has shaped us into who we are. And that failure had serious consequences for me.”

After the disaster that killed 270 people, the regulations in Brazil changed completely. A global tailing review would set a new international standard.

“People often tell me I’m very passionate about residues,” Morrison says. She is a civil engineer and registered geologist. Growing up on farmland north of the Missouri River, she always loved being outdoors.

“What I’m passionate about is being responsible, respecting our environment, respecting our communities. And all I’m trying to do is raise awareness to help the industry do a better job.”

Morrison, now senior director, global tailings management technical services at Newmont, has since published two papers on the regulatory change and response: Post-Corrego do Feijao: Continuing Evolution of Waste Dam Regulations in Brazil and Regulatory Changes for Waste Dams in Brazil in the Aftermath of Outages.

She was also the founding chair of the mining waste commission for SMEs and was editor-in-chief of the Waste Management Handbook: A Life Cycle Approach published in February 2022, with over 100 contributors from around the world.

“As a consultant you have the opportunity to see many facilities and do different types of work. And it really helps build that knowledge base and greater understanding that each facility is unique and that each facility presents unique challenges,” she says.

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Morrison’s Edumine Course, Responsible Waste Management 101 is currently available online on request in a recorded format. Here’s a sneak peak of the syllabus:

MDC: Can you describe the course and who it is designed for?

Morrison: It provides a good general background or foundation for understanding waste management. You can get into the entry level and get something out of it, you can get in with a number of years under your belt and still get something out of it.

What I have found over the years is that the course attracts a wide range of people from a wide variety of backgrounds. I actually recommend management to give them a broader understanding of regulatory bodies. And I attended some regulators and mining finance people to get a better understanding of tailings management, [as] one of the major costs of running an operation.

MDC: What is the knowledge gap for new engineers entering a residue plant?

Morrison: New engineers are often not introduced to residuals in their engineering curriculum period. So the knowledge gap can initially be quite large. And this course, in my opinion, is very good at giving that broad basic understanding of the multidisciplinary cross-functional requirements involved in residue management.

MDC: What has changed since the new standards for residues came into play?

Morrison: Many technological improvements have been made – it gives us the opportunity to understand what is happening in our tailings storage facilities and how performance and observations relate to performance expectations.

Monitoring processes are constantly being improved [with] significant improvements to drone technologies. There is the ability to leverage high quality images and videos. You can equip drones with other sensors, such as thermal imagers, and it gives additional insight into the performance of the facility.

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MDC: What new technology is being used?

Morrison: There is an extensive use of remote monitoring technologies. Over there [are] improvements in technological real-time monitoring of installed dam instrumentation linked to trigger thresholds, newer forms of instrumentation to improve understanding, such as fiber optic cables to detect distortion and seepage.

There is a better understanding of the geotechnical behavior of tailings through research. Watering technologies are getting better and better. We can filter with higher production rates and with larger filters, combined technologies. There is really a movement towards ‘how can we build without dams? Is that possible?’

Read more about Edumine’s responsible waste management course here.


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