The Tailings Center

An Industry/University Research and Education Center

Sustainable management of mine waste requires an experienced and multidisciplinary team of trained engineers to design, construct, operate and monitor Tailings Storage Facilities (TSF) from conceptualization through closureHistorically, tailings engineers have received on-the-job training in mine waste managementThere is a critical need to build workforce capacity in tailings engineering education to meet mining industry’s dramatically increased demand for specialized tailings engineers.  There are at least 15,000 active and inactive TSFs globally.

Teck Highland Valley Copper Operations, British ColombiaPhoto courtesy of Teck Resources Limited.

Who We Are

The Tailings Center is an industry/research consortium formed as a collaboration including Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University and the University of ArizonaThe Center increases workforce capacity in tailings management, offers tailings management graduate certificates, provides professional development tailings education and conducts research on key industry issues. 

What We Do

Mine wastes include tailings and waste rock. Mine tailings are the waste solid residuum after separation of valuable minerals from economically worthless minerals (gangue). After extraction and beneficiation, the residuals from mineral recovery are normally discharged as a hydraulic fill (aka slurry) composed of finely ground gangue (sub-micrometer to sand-sized particles), chemicals, and process water into a TSF impoundment where solids slowly consolidate, releasing water much of which is returned to the processing circuits. Although termed tailings ‘storage’ facilities, these facilities are not temporary, and cannot be discarded at the end of useful mine life. Thus, the aim of a TSF is to ensure that deposited materials achieve and maintain both physical and chemical stability in the long-term. Closure of TSFs requires ensuring acceptably low risks to communities and the environment for hundreds or thousands of years. There are at least 15,000 active and inactive TSFs globally.

In order to meet the needs of the industry and provide engineers specially trained to design and manage the engineered disposal of tailings, it is the Center’s goal to provide courses and workshops, both in person and online, that the industry requires to raise the skill sets of new engineers. The Center provides a nexus for the advancement and dissemination of the best practices and industry bench-marking. The Center also operates recruiting and outreach programs for the public and for undergraduate and graduate students, illuminating the challenges and opportunities in mine waste management.

Research Goals

The Tailings Center is responsive to the needs of the mining industry and facilitates focused research projects which address those needs and provide solutions that are able to be implemented in the industry.  Collaborative research is conducted across the Tailings Center partner universities.


The Tailings Center offers professional development Fundamentals of Tailings Management certificate of completion through short courses. 

Center universities offer a Tailings Engineering graduate certificate for individuals interested in scholarship and research on topics including, but not limited to, geology, geotechnical engineering, water, soil mechanics, tailing valorization, mineral processing and extractive metallurgy, environmental engineering, and social governance.

Why We are Needed

Sustainable mining and industry expansion are fundamental to global technology and sustainability initiatives (e.g. efforts to decrease our reliance of fossil fuels require large quantities of new material for solar panels, wind turbines, electric cars)TSF failures have dramatically increased the demand for specialized tailings engineers and there is a substantial shortfall between identified needs and available engineers and knowledge.

Proposed Strategy Forward

The Tailings Center is developed as a fee-based membership of industry partners, with the member fees supplemented with additional funding to support research and educational projects. The first activities will be to (i) develop and offer key online and in-person workshops and professional development opportunities, and (ii) engage all industry sectors (including mining companies, consultants and service providers, regulators, and the public) in research agenda-making. The research and educational agendae will be driven by the needs of the industry. The Center will leverage existing courses and develop new courses to provide certificate, MS and PhD academic training, allowing students to select specific courses (on campus or online) from any of the partner universities to advance their skills, experience and training in tailings engineering.

Tailings Center News and Announcements

Tailings Center names Michael Henderson as its first director

The new research and educational collaboration between Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University and University of Arizona launched in June 2020.

Tailings Center Resources

Effective Tailings Management – an Urgent Need for Technology
Dr. Priscilla Nelson at the Department of Mining Engineering, Colorado School of Mines explores big ideas that can help manage tailings better.

Catastrophic Failures Raise Alarm About Dams Containing Muddy Mine Wastes
Basins filled with leftover sludge from mining can grow to half the size of Manhattan. Historically, dams containing tailings have failed at more than 100 times the rate of water-holding dams. In just the past decade, failures have killed hundreds and contaminated ecosystems with toxic mud. many failures have common culprits.

Mine Summit
Industry Membership

The Tailings Center is a fee-based membership of industry partners with the member fees leveraged with additional funding to support research and educational projectsThe research is driven by the needs of the industry. 

Site inspection at Gruyere Gold Mine. Photo courtesy of Gold Fields Limited.

Contact Us


Phone: 303.273.3700

Photo courtesy of Freeport Mc-MoRan Inc.

In 2024, the year of our 150th anniversary, we will celebrate Colorado School of Mines’ past, present and possibilities. By celebrating and supporting the Campaign for MINES@150 you will help elevate Mines to be an accessible, top-of-mind and first-choice for students, faculty, staff, recruiters and other external partners. The Mining department’s goals for Mines@150 include upgrading facilities, scholarships, and continuing to build on student experiences both in the classroom and out in the field. When you give, you are ensuring Mines becomes even more distinctive and highly sought-after by future students, alumni, industry, and government partners over the next 150 years. We look forward to celebrating Mines’ sesquicentennial with you and recognizing the key role you play in making the MINES@150 vision a reality through your investments of time, talent and treasure. Give now