Chile is the third country in the world with the most tailings deposits, after the United States and China. There are currently 764 tailings storage sites in our territory.
The University of Chile, through the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM) and the Advanced Mining Technology Center (AMTC), together with the Undersecretary of Mining and the National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin), launched this Thursday the “Risk Monitoring System for Tailings Deposits”, which aims to solve the national problem of waste generated by the mining industry.
In the last report of 2022, Sernageomin informed that in our country there are 764 deposits, of which 473 are inactive and 173 abandoned.
Therefore, the CMM researcher and project director, Professor Jorge Amaya, explained that “we seek to generate a monitoring tool focused on the problem of the physical stability of these deposits, so we will begin the study with 13 tailings sites”.
Along these lines, the director of the CMM, Héctor Ramírez, emphasized that “this is a multidisciplinary project that uses mathematical modeling techniques, data processing, algorithms, artificial intelligence tools and satellite images, the latter in line with the Copernicus Regional Center for Latin America and the Caribbean, financed by the European Union and inaugurated at our center last March”.
Jaime Ortega, also an CMM researcher and professor in the Department of Mathematical Engineering at the University of Chile, explained that “every 36 hours mining generates tailings the size of Santa Lucía Hill and this is expected to increase to one hill every 20 hours”.
Although the Undersecretary of Mining, Willy Kracht, assured that “this is a problem for the entire mining sector”, he emphasized that “the industry has a good track record in the sense that it has been making progress in environmental matters and is doing better and better management in this respect. But in this exercise of looking at how we have evolved, we still need to take care of things that were not done well in the past, such as the tailings deposits that were abandoned or inactive“.
“We are concerned about monitoring their behavior, because if one of them suffers a landslide that affects the community, it also affects the performance of the entire mining industry. Therefore, in the context of the sector’s transformations towards a more environmentally friendly industry, there are many spaces to develop initiatives such as this FONDEF project, which complements the progress made by the Tranque program and which can promote efforts, new methodologies or the raising of resources to develop technological solutions,” added the national authority.
“Climate change is causing certain conditions that force us to work even more responsibly, so that citizens have certainty in the event of a sudden event,” said the director of Sernageomin, Patricio Aguilera.
In this regard, the Academic, Research and Innovation Director of the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences of the U. of Chile, Viviana Meruane, emphasized that “we seek to generate methodologies that allow us to evaluate the risks associated with the stability phenomena of the deposits and to be able to provide early warnings that will help the corresponding authorities to make decisions”.
The project is led by the Center for Mathematical Modeling and the Advanced Mining Technology Center, and is financed by the Fondo de Fomento al Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico (FONDEF), in its IDeA I+D program.
by Alonso Farías Ponce, Comunicaciones CMM.