Metals company Boliden is to invest SEK 5 billion over the next two years to strengthen current dam construction to meet the best international industry standards, and eventually change to a new dam construction method to ensure long-term disposal of tailings in Aitik, Sweden.
Ongoing geotechnical investigations highlighted the need for the change in dam construction methods. Normally, the dam structures at Aitik's tailings pond are built and filled in line with production, Surveys for future dam heightening identified areas with poorer soil conditions than previously estimated, which means that additional dam heightening and deposition of tailings against dams in these areas has been suspended.
In a first step, existing dam structures will now be strengthened and certain infrastructure will need to be moved. This is estimated to take about two years, after which dam heightening and deposition in this area can be resumed.
Production in Aitik is not expected to be affected during this time as tailings can continue to be deposited in other parts of the tailings pond. The measures depend on environmental permits and other approvals, but work can be started prior to the permitting process.
“A high level of dam safety is always our top priority,” commented Mikael Staffas, President and CEO of Boliden. “The new direction naturally entails challenges in the short term, but it also creates long-term opportunities in Aitik and a clear direction for how the business can be developed going forward.”