The mining industry is one in which stakeholders continuously seek ways to improve environmental performance, sustainability and efficiency, while managing risk, the social license to operate, and scarce resources such as water. In answer to these challenges, Golder has developed innovative mine waste and water management solutions and over the past two decades we have consistently delivered results that have helped mining firms manage their costs and reach their sustainability goals. One of these solutions was Paste technology.
Industry pioneers in Paste
Named “Paste” because of the consistency of the final product, this mining backfill solution was developed by industry pioneer Dave Landriault. Landriault started PasteTec as a subsidiary of Golder Associates in 1996. From the start this group was focused on bringing to market revolutionary technology solutions – forming the origins of Golder’s current Process Infrastructure & Design Group. This team has since led the engineering and construction of more than two dozen tailings surface disposal and backfill plants around the globe.
“For me Golder’s Paste group has been one of the best examples of Golder putting innovation to work for our clients,” says Mark Brightman the President of Golder’s Global Mining Division. “We have helped to solve significant challenges for this industry.”
Innovation in action
Paste backfill technology involves the processing of by-products e.g. tailings, in on-site processing plants that Golder designs and builds, to produce a material that is used as structural fill to stabilize underground workings. Paste and thickened tailings for surface disposal developed out of the backfill science and is now widely used as one of the best available technologies for mine waste management. The team has continued to innovate, bringing, what were once design concepts to reality. Dry stack filter cake, co-disposal, co-mingling and PasteRockTM are some of these cutting edge ideas.
Recent tailings disasters illustrate the need for continual development of innovative approaches, to mitigate risk and impacts to our clients’ businesses and the communities in which they operate. We have taken our in-depth knowledge of paste properties and production requirements to design and construct a wide range of systems – from +$100 million, high tonnage, high complexity backfill and tailings disposal systems, all the way to small, mobile backfill systems that allow for the reclamation of abandoned mines, mitigating subsidence risks.
“To find solutions for our clients’ challenges, we conduct, analyze and interpret tailings and mine waste laboratory testing results, and apply that to design options for them to consider,” says Sue Longo, Principal at Golder.
While the main application has been in mining, Golder has also delivered paste technology across multiple sectors, including oil and gas and power where clients have similar needs in dealing with their waste products. Most recently the team executed testing programs in the oil sands industry in Alberta, Canada and paste technology studies in the U.S. for fly ash disposal in response to changing Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
Our services are cradle to grave
Golder works with clients from initial analysis and conceptual design, through the detailed design, construction and commissioning of the paste plants. Our specialists also help to train plant operators and optimize the facility operations.
“We want to partner with our clients through the whole life-cycle of their facility to make sure that the process solutions meets their needs at start up as well as during operations,” says Longo.
We are proud to take a look back at some of the highlights from the past 20 years!
- 1996 – We designed and built our first paste backfill plant at Macassa in Ontario, Canada.
- 1996 – The first paste-centric laboratory, the cornerstone of our group, established in Sudbury, Ontario.
- 2001 – First dual surface disposal and paste backfill plant in Bulyanhulu, Tanzania. This facility has been extremely important from a research and development perspective in the industry.
- 2003 – Our first paste plant for fly ash in the U.S., which helped the power plant to re-use existing impoundment areas and reduce environmental impacts.
- 2003 – Our first mobile paste operation for backfilling abandoned mines in Western Canada. We won a Brownfield Award of Excellence for the project. This project demonstrated that legacy mines could be rehabilitated to pave the way for urban development opportunities.
- 2005 – Our first completely underground paste plant designed and built in Peru. This facility was located high in the Andes with surface space at a premium – a creative solution minimized surface infrastructure while gaining efficiencies and thus reducing cost for the client.
- 2009 – MATSA mine is the first to re-open in Spain following the Los Frailes dam failure. Paste technology for surface disposal was applied and was credited for the regulatory approval.
- 2011 – Surface thickened tailings facility with year-round operation for Musselwhite Mine in Northern Ontario. Thickened tailings on surface was traditionally done in hot climates – this year-round operation proved it could be successfully done in cold climates as well.
- 2012 – Barrick Goldstrike Mines, the first paste backfill plant in the state of Nevada, U.S.
- 2013 – Giant mine – another mobile paste backfill operation in the Northwest Territories, Canada. We won a Consulting Engineers of Canada Award of Excellence for the project. This was a special project as it was a new application of paste technology, which focused on rehabilitation of the mine in order to mitigate risk and environmental impact and to positon the site for closure.
- 2015 – The first paste backfill plant designed and built in India.
Continuing our evolution
We were the pioneers of this approach, designing and building paste backfill plants in the mid-1990s, and we continue to be the industry leaders in successful design and application of this important technology for mining and waste management. Golder’s paste team has evolved, designing and building facilities for a host of other process and infrastructure applications. Though the focus of this highly qualified group remains on mine waste management, these multi-discipline engineers and designers have the expertise and experience to tackle virtually any heavy industrial infrastructure project.
“We have people who have been designing and constructing paste systems for a long time and that practical experience makes a world of difference!” says Longo.
“We pride ourselves on providing solutions from concept to post-closure, to meet project needs, and we look forward to working with our clients for many years to come.”