Officine Maccaferri


An effective alternative for tailings dams

Retaining Walls_Soil Reinforcement

Discover the reinforcement solution that provides reliable protection for tailings as an alternative to reinforced concrete

Reinforced soil technologies can solve the challenge of safely storing toxic overburden (or beneficiation tailings) at mining and processing sites. Our Terramesh® System is a durable, reliable and environmentally friendly solution for building tailings dams that meet all modern operating requirements. It can also be used to stabilise existing sites and for heightening the banks of tailings ponds to increase their capacity.

When tailings dams break, they can pollute local ecosystems and the wider environment, destroy nearby infrastructure and become a threat to human life. In 2009, the overfilling of the Karamken tailings dump in the Magadan region caused a dam to be breached. As a result, toxic tailings waste polluted the Hasyn and Arman rivers, impacting on the tens of thousands of people living in riverside villages.

Reinforced soil systems can successfully solve the problem of dam breakthrough, helping to prevent environmental pollution in relation to beneficiation waste, and provide long-term protection of adjacent infrastructure.

Reinforced soil dam construction

The Terramesh System is an embankment stabilisation technology that can be used for the construction of protective tailings dams. A feature of the system is the possibility to create a holding structure of unlimited height during the construction of tailings pond dams.

When constructing walls of considerable height, additional reinforcement of the embankment can be achieved with high-strength ParaLink® and ParaGrid® geogrids. These materials significantly increase the carrying capacity of the embankment, due to their strength – up to 1,350 kN/m. With this reinforcement, embankments can withstand heavy machinery and dump trucks under load passing through the crest of the dam.

Terramesh soil reinforcement solutions are also flexible, given that the gabion blocks used for the dam face can effectively redistribute the structure’s interior stresses, making it possible to design both symmetric and asymmetric dams.

The Terramesh System is a seismic-resistant structure, and thanks to its flexibility, it can adapt to the relative sediment more effectively than reinforced concrete, which does not allow for subsidence due to its rigidity. A reinforced soil system is also better at perceiving deformation.

Existing dam reinforcement

As well as new constructions, reinforced soil systems can be used for the local stabilisation of existing sections of a dam. Such protection can be crucial, as old tailings are more susceptible to destructive processes, presenting a big environmental risk.

In these instances, using Terramesh System soil reinforcement structures can help to support the existing retaining walls.

Increasing dam height

It is often more economically efficient for a field owner to increase the capacity of an existing tailings site than to build a new one. In these cases, soil reinforcement technology provides a reliable way of building up the crest of existing dams.

The Terramesh System is a cost-effective way of constructing new tailings dams and reinforcing and increasing the capacity of existing tailings dams, as it does not require large expenses in terms of construction. Materials used for filling gabion structures and backfill ground can be taken directly from the construction site, and creating the reinforced embankment structure requires minimal heavy equipment.

Contact us for help with designing an optimal engineering solution for your project.


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