The colossal Penasquito Mine’s tailings dam will reach a stunning height of a 46 story skyscraper over the next decade. That is, if the mine reopens and is allowed to continue business as usual. Newmont-Goldcorp suspended operations at Mexico’s second largest silver mine on April 29th, due to a blockade stemming from issues with the local community in regards to water supply concerns and problems with a trucking contractor.
Last year, the Penasquito Mine produced 272,000 oz of gold and over 18 million oz of silver. However, it plans on producing over 5 million oz of gold and 400+ million oz of silver over the next decade.
After I published my article, MORE TROUBLE IN MEXICO: Second Largest Silver Mine Suspended Operations, I did some research on Penasquito’s tailings dam, and when I saw a photo of the dam, I was literally shocked by its massive size. I never really gave it much thought about where all the waste ended up after the processing of ore was finished. It’s a typical problem we all deal with today, OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND.
Let me start by saying that the tailings dam is so large; it surpasses the size of the Penasquito open-pit mine itself. For clarification, the tailings dam (or ponds) are used to store the processed waste slurry after the metals have been extracted. Here is a layout of the Penasquito Mining Operation:
(image courtesy of Goldcorp 2018 Tailings & Mine Waste Conference PDF report)
As you can see, the tailings dam is 4 kilometers long compared to the Penasquito open-pit mine, which is about half its size. However, this layout doesn’t give the epic scale of the tailings dam justice. According to the images in Goldcorp’s 2018 Tailings & Mine Waste Conference PDF, and data from the company’s Feb 2019 Penasquito Mine Tour Presentation, the tailings dam is currently 85 meters tall, or nearly 280 feet in height:
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