Last edited 03 Sep 2021

Iron ore tailings IOTs


A loader works with the iron ore tailings from the Sishen mine expansion project. (Photo attribution: Graeme Williams, Media Club South Africa.)

Iron ore tailings (IOTs) are a form of solid waste produced during the mining process. IOTs are created through the extraction of the valuable portion of the iron ore from the waste portion. This waste material is sometimes produced in the form of a type of slurry.

IOTs have no commercial value and are typically stored in tailings dams that also contain water and other waste that is produced as a result of the mining process.

IOTs stored in tailing dams may be dangerous due to high levels of chemicals (such as iron oxide) that are thought to be harmful to the environment. IOTs that are not controlled or contained are sometimes carried by wind and water to contaminate other areas.

High volumes of IOTs may create environmental, economic and ecological concerns due to the amount of land occupied and the safety hazards they can produce.

Researchers have been exploring different recycling methods to convert IOTs into useful products that are not environmentally harmful. Some of these products include:

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