Definition - What does Tailings mean?

Tailings are materials that are left after the dissociation of the valuable portion of materials from ores.

Tailings can be extracted through placer mining or hard rock mining. This can be most commonly found in mills in its slurry form. Tailings are fine waste that can be found floating in water and can cause environmental damage or corrosion.

Tailings are also known as slimes or mine dumps.

Corrosionpedia explains Tailings

Tailings may be composed of various elements and minerals depending on the process used in extracting the mineral from the ore. Common tailings include:

  • Sulfur and sulfide compounds
  • Arsenic
  • Calcite
  • Cadmium
  • Mercury
  • Hydrocarbons

The compounds and elements that are carried by tailings through processing and mining operations are not natural to the ecosystem. Thus, tailings have the potential to damage the environment.

Therefore, proper disposal of tailings should be a major concern of those involved in the mining and processing industries in order to prevent or control environmental damage caused by tailings and other corrosive elements.

Although tailings are composed of materials such as silica, which is a somewhat sought-after material, it may contain highly toxic metals that can pose an extreme environmental hazard. Additionally, most of the processing methods involve the use of cyanide and copper sulfate, which are pollutants to the marine environment. Tailings can also cause damage to storage facilities.

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