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2
TAILINGS DAM FAILURES
2.1
Failures over the last century
Azam and Li (2010) compiled a review of tailings dam failures over the last one hundred
years from available data from primary data bases:
i.
United Nations Environmental Protection (UNEP)
ii.
International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD)
iii.
World Information Service of Energy (WISE)
iv.
United States Commission On Large Dams (USCOLD)
v.
United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA)
They found that eight to nine tailings dams failed per decade in the 1940s and 1950s but
during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s the number of failures per decade rose to around 50 (the
accurate, definitive, quantification of such phenomena on a global basis remains elusive:
many smaller failures go unreported, and indeed may not be viewed as failures especially if
they arise during construction where instant remedial measure may be taken and designs
changed on an ad hoc basis). The higher failure rate during the later decades may be attributed
to an increase in the global demand for mined materials after World War II. Failures were
significantly reduced in 1990s and 2000s with approximately 20 failures per decade. This
improvement was due to “…sufficient engineering experience, implementation of tougher
safety criteria and improved construction technology” (Azam and Li, 2010).
Figure 2.1: Failure events over time (Azam and Li, 2010)
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