University of Oulu

Tuomela, A., Ronkanen, A.-K., Rossi, P. M., Rauhala, A., Haapasalo, H., & Kujala, K. (2021). Using Geomembrane Liners to Reduce Seepage through the Base of Tailings Ponds—A Review and a Framework for Design Guidelines. Geosciences, 11(2), 93. doi:10.3390/geosciences11020093

Using geomembrane liners to reduce seepage through the base of tailings ponds : a review and a framework for design guidelines

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Author: Tuomela, Anne1; Ronkanen, Anna-Kaisa2; Rossi, Pekka M.2;
Organizations: 1Structures and Construction Technology, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 4300, 90014 Oulu, Finland
2Water, Energy and Environmental Engineering, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 4300, 90014 Oulu, Finland
3Industrial Engineering and Management, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 4300, 90014 Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.8 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-02-18


Geomembranes are used worldwide as basin liners in tailings ponds to decrease the permeability of the foundation and prevent further transportation of harmful contaminants and contaminated water. However, leakage into the environment and damage to the geomembrane have been reported. This paper reviews available literature and recommendations on geomembrane structures for use as a basal liner in tailings ponds, and presents a framework to achieve early involvement and an integrated approach to geomembrane structure design. Cohesive planning guidelines or legislative directions for such structures are currently lacking in many countries, which often means that the structure guidelines for groundwater protection or landfill are applied when designing tailings storage facilities (TSF). Basin structure is generally unique to each mine but, based on the literature, in the majority of cases the structure has a single-composite liner. The type of liner system used depends mainly on the material to be used on top of the structure, local hydraulic pressure gradient, and climate conditions. More practical information and scientific knowledge on the use of base liners in various cases are needed. A sustainable approach could be risk-based design, where the life cycle of the basin is taken into consideration. To this end, this paper proposes geomembrane-lined tailings pond to be assessed as a stakeholder. Emphasis on this, early enough, can ensure critical factors for tailings ponds to be considered from the outset in the design of mines and reduces the environmental footprint of the mining industry. More holistic project management and early involvement and integration are recommended to improve construction quality during the entire life cycle of the pond. In the long term, use of dry stacking or other alternative methods should be encouraged, despite the higher costs for operators.

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Series: Geosciences
ISSN: 2076-3263
ISSN-E: 2076-3263
ISSN-L: 2076-3263
Volume: 11
Issue: 2
Article number: 93
DOI: 10.3390/geosciences11020093
Type of Publication: A2 Review article in a scientific journal
Field of Science: 222 Other engineering and technologies
Funding: This research was funded and supported by Ministry of the Environment of Finland, The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment Kainuu, K. H Renlunds foundation and Tauno Tönning foundation.
Copyright information: © 2021 by the authors. Submitted for possible open access publication under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (