Tailings management has historically been one of the largest challenges of the mining industry. Numerous environmental disasters related to tailings dams, the de facto standard for tailings disposal, has resulted in increased scrutiny from regulators, environmentalists, and stakeholders. In permitting new projects, the proposition of a tailings dam can cause onerous delays to a project if not kill it altogether.

The recent advent of dry stack technologies alleviates these concerns. Instead of wet tailings being deposited in a dammed lake, tailings from the process plant are fed to a downstream dewatering and filtration system (dry stack tailings system or DSTS) to produce an inert “dry stack” soil which can be reclaimed with native soil and vegetation.

As a downstream component of the processing plant, the DSTS is required to accommodate a high level of material throughput. Ensuring a robust design with high availability is key as DSTS downtime inevitably translates to concentrate plant downtime and lost revenue. Redundancy in the filtration plant is required, but with a high cost of capital components like filters, ensuring an optimal design is critical.

Development of a simulation model which can account for all major processes, dependencies, and failure modes is recommended to correctly evaluate the trade-off between capital equipment and plant availability. Moreover, a simulation model can identify where bottlenecks will form, test alternative debottlenecking solutions, and de-risk the design.

Consider Ausenco’s Transportation Logistics SimulatorTM (TLS), our in-house discrete event-model simulation software that identifies the effects of inter-dependencies and variation in complex business processes. The results enable our mining clients to:

  • Identify bottlenecks
  • forecast productivity
  • Optimize processes
  • reduce fuel consumption
  • improve maintenance
  • minimize haulage costs
  • compare fleet and mine layout options
  • reduce risk and uncertainty

By providing data-driven recommendations, TLS improves existing systems, optimizes capital investment, and maximizes business value.

Ausenco’s TLS has been used for 500+ simulation projects worldwide, largely in the resource sector.

Copper project case study

Our client, a copper and zinc producer developing a new project in Arizona, hired us to develop its Copper Project processing plant and to support its feasibility study for a DSTS. We were asked to study the risks to the overall processing operations of the DSTS design and evaluate design trade-offs.

Our Simulation team built a dynamic, discrete-event simulation model of the project including a base case design and three sensitivity cases. The results highlighted various risks with the base-case design, including the potential failure to achieve the processing target throughput, frequent milling interruptions, and high sensitivity to CEC clay content.

As a result of the study, the design was updated to improve the stacking system with higher reliability, modify the stacking plan to reduce equipment relocations, install bypass lines, and increase filter feed tank storage.

Bottom line: Our client was able to cost-effectively re-evaluate its DSTS design for improved reliability.

How we can help you #FindABetterWay

Our TLS software is backed by professionals with decades of combined experience providing specific, data-driven recommendations to our clients.

Our expertise and technology help resources companies optimize their processes, create breakthrough results, and find ways to add value to their supply chain networks. Our simulation models are calibrated to years of detailed operating and financial data to ensure they reflect actual operations and forecast future performance accurately. The TLS software is also scalable, enabling us to quickly model large and complex supply chains, far exceeding the capabilities of traditional off-the-shelf software.

At Ausenco, we work with clients’ unique needs. Our professionals engage with the right stakeholders early to gather data, understand perspectives, and align everyone’s definition of success. We view our clients’ operations holistically to optimize lifetime economic value and minimize risk.

For more information on how we can model and optimize your operations, contact Jason Smolensky.