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China launches probe into tailings dam failure

Yichun-Luming-Mining-tailings dam failure

The Chinese Government has launched a probe into the failure of Yichun Luming Mining Co Ltd tailings storage facility which saw contaminated water sources more than 100 kilometres downstream of a mine.

The probe by China’s mining regulator, the Ministry of Emergency Management and China’s Environmental Regulator, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment will examine why 2.53 million cubic metres of waste had been discharged from the tailings storage facility at the Molybdenum mine. Reports say that petroleum-based flotation agents were discovered at least 110km downstream reaching levels 1.74 times permissible levels

Yichun Luming Mining, a subsidiary of state-run China Railway Resources Group. The Lu Ming project is the largest open-pit molybdenum mine in China.

The mine has a reported capacity of 50,000 tons per day and 15 million tons of raw ore per year. It can produce 22,500 tons of molybdenum concentrate (51%), 4,950 tons of copper concentrate (16%) and 75,300 tons of sulfur concentrate (45%). 

This latest tailings storage facility incident lies in the wake of a number of past disasters including Vale’s Brumadinho disaster (see video below) that claimed hundreds of lives.

Urgent action required on Tailings Storage

With more than 8000 reported tailings storage facilities, China has explored little regarding the extent of potential risks. While groups like the ICMM have committed to transparency associated with TSF, China and its’ vast array of companies have not.

World TSF Incidents

International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), a London-based industry group representing 27 major mining companies, formed an independent panel of experts in charge of developing global standards for tailings facilities.

Image: Zongjie Lyu Junrui Chai,Zengguang Xu,Yuan Qin,and Jing Cao in Advances in Civil Engineering, Volume 2019 |Article ID 4159306 | 18 pages | A Comprehensive Review on Reasons for Tailings Dam Failures Based on Case History

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AMSJ April 2022