Encyclopedia of Engineering Geology

2018 Edition
| Editors: Peter T. Bobrowsky, Brian Marker


  • Jerome V. De GraffEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-73568-9_279


The waste material separated out during the processing of mineral ores (EPA 2000). Tailings are found as impoundments, piles, or other accumulations in proximity to mills or other processing sites. Processing sites may be near the location where ore is extracted or a short distance away from the mine location (Wills and Napier-Munn 2006).


Commonly, extracted ore is crushed until most of the ore is reduced to particles ranging from sand to silt size (Fig. 1). This process, sometimes referred to as comminution, creates a size range that facilitates separation of the mineral material from the ore by either a physical or chemical process (Wills and Napier-Munn 2006). Roasting, floatation, or centrifuge separation are common physical processes (Wills and Napier-Munn 2006). Chemical processes can involve creating amalgamations or precipitates to more easily separate the ore mineral from the less reactive host rock material. Chemical extraction of gold using...
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. DTSC (1998) Abandoned mine lands preliminary assessment handbook. State of California, Department of Toxic Substances Control, Sacramento. https://www.dtsc.ca.gov/SiteCleanup/Brownfields/upload/aml_handbook.pdf. Accessed 14 Dec 2015
  2. EPA (1994) Design and evaluation of tailings dams. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency technical report EPA530-R-94-038. http://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPURL.cgi?Dockey=2000EF89.TXT. Accessed 12 Oct 2017
  3. EPA (2000) Tailings. In: Abandoned Mine Site Characterization and Cleanup Handbook U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/2000_08_pdfs_amscch.pdf. Accessed 12 Oct 2017
  4. Luino F, De Graff JV (2012) The Stava mudflow of 19 July 1985 (Northern Italy): a disaster that effective regulation might have prevented. Nat Haz Earth Sys Sci 12:1029–1044CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Wills BA, Napier-Munn TJ (2006) An introduction to the practical aspects of ore treatment and mineral recovery. In: Wills’ mineral processing technology, 7th edn. Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Science and Mathematics, Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesCalifornia State UniversityFresnoUSA