DEVELOPMENT OF GEOTECHNICAL PRACTICES FOR TAILINGS FACILITIES OVER THE YEARS (PART 2): THE FAILURE MODES AND EFFECTS ANALYSIS

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Let’s discuss risk further.  Risk is defined as the product of the probability of an event occurring and consequences resulting from the event. Risk analyzes are a systematic process of identifying and assessing these possible results and their associated probabilities.  Because risk analysis for tailings facilities includes many uncertainties, the analyzes are often completed using a deterministic approach. 

Some designs utilize the Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) method to assess their potential risks.  FMEA is a technique that takes into account the different manners of failure of a given element and identifies their effects on other components and on the overall system.  It is an iterative, descriptive and qualitative analytical approach that promotes, based on available knowledge and information, systematic and logical thinking as a means to significantly improve the understanding of the sources of risk and the justification of decisions related to the integrity of complex systems. Without the need for mathematical or statistical frameworks, it aims to ensure that potential flaws are studied in terms of:

  • What could go wrong?
  • How bad can it go?
  • What can be done to prevent or mitigate it?

FMEA is useful for establishing the impacts of adverse events that could occur during the construction or operation of the facility and, ultimately, to identify and prioritize necessary detection and mitigation measures.

The FMEA process is best carried out by a mixture of staff with various backgrounds and from various mine departments, with the engineer-of-record and members of their staff so that broader views of failure likelihoods and consequences can be better captured.  The method usually uses a matrix to depict the results of likelihood and consequences so that the risks can be easily visualized and areas for improvement identified. 

Standby for part 3!

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