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The importance of the technical specification when using geotextile tubes for mining applications

Mining tailings disposal permanently brings about a contamination threat to groundwater of unprotected aquifers and surface water in dumping sites all over the world. The mining tailings burden and management problems are particularly important due to the high volume and complexity of material disposed. Developed in the early 60’s, and first applied for mine tailings in early 2000’s, the geotextile tube technology has been successfully used to contain and dewater hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of waste material every year around the world. Despite the simple concept of using filtration to separate the liquids from the solid part of a high moisture content material, the geotextile tube technology depends on several technical aspects to work properly and safely, such as, hydraulic and mechanical properties of the geotextile, filling ports, seaming and dewatering performance. Not to mention the operation of the system which is critical to achieve the expected results. In the last couple years, the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil has been struggling with major environmental disasters, caused by the collapse of two tailing dams. First failure happened in 2015 and the second event in 2019. Both catastrophic events resulted in flooding, deaths and material losses. Either in 2015 or 2019, as part of the remediation plan, several geotextile tube units were used to clean up the waterways from contaminated sediments and tailings. This paper compares the different specifications used in both projects and also discusses the importance of the technical specification when designing geotextile tubes to contain and dewater mining tailings highlighting its best practices.