The greatest danger of tailings ponds is dam failure, with the most publicized failure in the U. being the failure of a coal slurry dam in the West Virginia Buffalo Creek Flood, which killed 125 people; other collapses include the Ok Tedi environmental disaster in New Guinea, which destroyed the fishery of the Ok Tedi River.
On average, worldwide, there is one big accident involving a tailings dam each year.
Tailing ponds are areas of refused mining tailings where the waterborne refuse material is pumped into a pond to allow the sedimentation (meaning separation) of solids from the water.
The pond is generally impounded with a dam, and known as tailings impoundments or tailings dams.
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They have the potential to damage the environment by releasing toxic metals (arsenic and mercury being two major culprits), by acid drainage (usually by microbial action on sulfide ores), or by damaging aquatic wildlife that rely on clear water (vs suspensions).Historically, tailings were disposed of in the most convenient manner, such as in downstream running water or down drains.