Mining Waste

Measures for environmentally friendly tailings piles

Reducing tailings piles and preventing solid residues is a Group-wide goal at K+S. Solid residues occur in mining during the extraction and processing of crude potash salts. Disposal on tailings piles is done under consideration of the respective site conditions and, by developing the best technology, we can minimize the environmental impact.

Comprehensive monitoring programs measure and monitor the potential impact of tailings piles on water, air and soil. The resulting data generated is always available to the licensing authorities. Regular inspections are also carried out to monitor tailings pile operations. The authorities are given detailed information about the planning and implementation of measures.

In order to secure potash production in the long term, expanding the existing tailings piles is unavoidable. Comprehensive compensatory and replacement measures are done in connection with these expansions. The compensatory measures include long-term projects that aim to create new biotopes for flora and fauna or upgrading existing ones. Wherever possible, reforestation will also be carried out in areas deemed to be of poor quality from a nature-conservation perspective to conserve usable agricultural areas. Comprehensive species-conservation measures will be carried out and new habitats created in neighboring areas. Medium-sized inoperative tailings piles have been successively covered as part of our strategy in an effort to avoid and minimize the long-term impact on nature and the environment.

Covering and planting greenery on the tailings piles is essential for reducing saline wastewater in the future. If the tailings piles are not covered, the saline wastewater runoff caused by rainfall has to be collected and disposed of. Planting greenery on the piles significantly increases the evaporation capacity of the surface, reducing the tailings pile runoff by up to 80 percent.

Our targets by 2030:

  • From 2030 on, K+S will be able to use three million tonnes of residue per year for purposes other than increasing the size of tailings piles.

  • By 2030 we aim to cover another 115 hectares of tailings pile surface area, further reducing or preventing tailings pile runoff.

This will be possible by an alternative use of the tailings pile material and avoidance of residues by increasing the raw material yield.

This involves covering tailings piles that will be added to the current cover (approx. 70 hectares). By 2030 we will have covered a total of 225 hectares of tailings pile surface area. The covered tailings pile surface area refers to the contact area relevant for the reduction of tailings pile runoff water.