Materials with no commercial value that are left over after mining, processing, and refining are known as tailings. These materials are neutralized with the addition of limestone and pumped from the Plant Site via a 15 km pipeline to a 750 ha Tailings facility (see map) – a secure, stabilized area where treated residue is discharged for permanent safe-keeping.
Ambatovy’s Tailings facility was built to specifications consistent with the requirements of the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation and meets the highest international standards.
The Tailings will be progressively filled with inert materials and covered by shallow lakes. The surface of these lakes will gradually rise as residual solids settle to the bottom. Excess water from the Tailings is sent down a pipeline and diffused into the ocean, one and a half km offshore.
The mineral content of the excess water – which is already quite similar to that of seawater – is rapidly absorbed by the tremendous volume of the ocean itself. This method of discharging water has been repeatedly tested, conforms to international standards, and is environmentally benign. When areas of the Tailings have been completely filled, they will be reclaimed to resemble the surrounding terrain.
The Tailings site was chosen because of its relatively low impact on the environment and local communities. Nevertheless, 154 families had to be relocated. This was carried out in accordance with IFC Performance Standards, and in close collaboration with community members. Click here for more information on Ambatovy’s Resettlement Villages.