Dr Maritz Rykaart is a practice leader and principal geotechnical engineer with global mining specialist, SRK Consulting. He has undergraduate and masters degrees in civil engineering, a PhD in geotechnical engineering, and 21 years of experience in mine management and applied research.
Maritz has a specialisation in unsaturated soil mechanics and applies this knowledge in the design and construction of soil covers for waste rock piles, tailings impoundments and heap leach pads. He has been directly involved in the design of over sixty cover systems on five continents in all climate zones of the world including arid, tropical and arctic.
The regulation and expertise are in place to ensure tailings dam failures do not happen, provided miners follow the guidance and best practice in place, according to Vancouver-based practice leader with SRK Consulting, Dr Maritz Rykaart.
"If you're operating any facility in any jurisdiction in accordance with the guidance documents and regulations, then I think the best practice offered by those documents is good," he said.
"Time and again, when we do the analysis on these facilities, it's not the regulation that fails - it's [the mining industry], as engineers and operators that cause these things go wrong.
"It's a matter of doing what we've already said we'll do and following best practice."
The other area in which Rykaart suggested there might be room for improvement was long-term planning. While the industry was adept at site selection and using technology to move with TSFs that were dynamic by nature, some decisions were still taken based on time-specific economic models, despite the likelihood of significant mine-life extensions.
"When you look at a project in the short term or [over] a finite timeline - if you look at it from an economic perspective - and [consider] the capex you have to put into a tailings dam for a 10-year project versus the total life-of-mine cost, that's an area the industry needs to do more work," he said.
"We often make decisions based on capex because that's what gets the project funded, and we put huge discount values on stuff later on in the project, which means we don't necessarily make the best long-term decisions because we've discounted the value of that money."
This is part of our tailings and water management podcast series, which will explore the issues from social, technical, and legal perspectives.