About tailings ponds
Tailings ponds are used to store waste and water generated from ore processing. Learn about them and the revolutionary technology developed by Vale that allows the use of tailings ponds to be eliminated in some of our operations.
Why do they exist?
In order to transform iron ore into a rich product that meets international market demands, it needs to be processed. This consists of separating the valuable material present in minerals from the rest, which has no commercial value. This separation process generally requires the use of water, and the resulting waste is stored in tailings ponds.
How are tailings ponds formed?
They are formed by constructing large dams out of compacted soil, blocks of rock or waste materials. These dams feature waterproofing and drainage mechanisms. The materials stored in tailings ponds are inert, i.e. they do not contain toxic components. Largely made up of silica (sand), they do not contain any chemical elements that are harmful to health.
Vale’s tailings dams
How do they work?
Natural moisture ore processing: an innovative and sustainable solution
Vale has developed a revolutionary iron ore processing technique in regions of high rainfall that dispenses with the use of water. Already used in some of our operations, natural moisture processing uses the ore’s own moisture to remove impurities. Another major advantage of the technology is that it eliminates the need for tailings ponds. High-grade ultrafine iron ore particles can be used to make products rather than discarded in tailings ponds. Over the S11D Mine’s 30-year lifespan, this will add 300 million metric tons to our output.