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Software helps miners manage tailings, waste

19th November 2021

By: Cameron Mackay

Creamer Media Senior Online Writer

     

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Software company IsoMetrix’s tailings management solution has been developed over many years to help miners manage their incidents, obligations and risks related to mine waste facilities.

The solution also reduces the administrative burden of conducting audits, inspections and reporting, states IsoMetrix executive environmental, social and governance (ESG) principal Robin Bolton.

“When the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM) was published last year, a few additional modules were included in our solution to help our customers align their tailings and mine waste management processes with the new requirements.”

IsoMetrix has created audited checklists for each of the requirements of conformance protocols, with associated dashboards to interpret and review results, he adds.

Bolton emphasises that the value enhancement of the software solution is to provide and maintain content, while developing connectors that allow for integration with various other systems and devices.

The solution is also web and mobile compatible, he adds.

There has been a greater focus on responsible mine waste management in the past few years, owing to the GISTM, as well as a focus on ESG aspects, mine closure requirements, minimising associated negative impacts and creating safer working conditions.

Further, South Africa generally has strong legislation relating to mine waste management, he adds.

“Previous tailings dam tragedies have led to stricter permit requirements, more in-depth studies, as well as safer designs, construction and operating protocols. Advances in technology, combined with the move towards more sustainable and greener operations, will result in mine waste being managed more safely and efficiently.”

He declares that the most significant opportunities in terms of more sustainable tailings and mine waste management lie in more feasible water-efficient deposition techniques, technology assisting in the monitoring of the safety and impacts of these facilities, and post-operation land-use opportunities.

Bolton stresses the need to incorporate these aspects in the design phase, as advances in available materials and tested technologies – such as dam liners, sensors, meters and other instrumentation – need to be considered, after which such materials must be connected to user-friendly management systems.

“There also needs to be a water and energy efficient mindset when planning. “Further, the design needs to cater for the intended end-use or closure requirements of the facility.”

Technology Transition

Bolton notes that existing practices and processes are difficult to change, and that moving towards a more digital approach to managing mine waste has not been implemented locally to the extent initially anticipated by software and technology suppliers.

This lack of progress is owed to the challenge of convincing mine waste operators of the value of software and similar solutions, the efficiencies it brings, and managing this change.

He says there has, however, been an increase in demand for technology associated with monitoring key aspects of tailings and waste management facilities, rather than central management solutions to store, interpret and report on data.

“Having said that, I am seeing a need for software to assist in auditing, and with inspections and incident management, particularly to help align with the requirements of the GISTM, and the associated conformance protocol.”

Further, IsoMetrix has helped local companies with managing general health, safety and environment (HSE) aspects of their operations; components of the HSE solution have also been used to manage mine waste-related risks.

“We have found from our engagements with local companies that often they have been, or are looking to, develop their own systems to align with the conformance standards, but this has its limitations.”

Bolton adds that this software can connect with other solutions and instrumentation – such as monitoring devices and meters – and can be preloaded with content such as audit or inspection checklists.

The ability to securely store and manage documents, flag data and send alerts when the data does not conform, as well as generate meaningful analytics and reports, are some notable advantages that a management system brings, he says.

“Operations in regions that have strong regulations around mine waste management, and which need to attract capital, are looking at opportunities to bring in elevated efficiencies, better controls and reduce risks.”

As an example, the company is currently engaging with a global copper producer regarding IsoMetrix’s audit and inspection modules.

These modules are aligned with the GISTM and its conformance protocols, and also have enough flexibility to be customised to the specific needs of customers.

While IsoMetrix’s headquarters is in Johannesburg, the company has offices in the US, the UK, Canada and Australia, with a presence in other countries.

The company’s strategy is to meet global requirements, where possible, using its solutions, rather than be country-specific, while being flexible to cater to unique needs.

This applies to the company’s other solutions, such as its ESG manager, which helps organisations to understand, manage and report on their ESG performance, and ensure that this performance is aligned to globally accepted ESG standards and frameworks.

Bolton states that IsoMetrix has several goals with its tailings management solution.

“We are looking to engage with mine waste facility operators to understand their needs, stay up to date with standards and other mine waste organisations’ monitoring or reporting guidelines, and determine how advances in instrumentation and other monitoring devices can connect seamlessly with our solution,” he concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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