Accidental water pollution risk analysis of mine tailings ponds in Guanting Reservoir Watershed, Zhangjiakou City, China

Alistair Borthwick, Renzhi Liu, J. Liu, Z.J. Zhang, K. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Over the past half century, a surprising number of major pollution incidents occurred due to tailings dam failures. Most previous studies of such incidents comprised forensic analyses of environmental impacts after a tailings dam failure, with few considering the combined pollution risk before incidents occur at watershed-scale. We therefore propose Watershed-scale Tailings-pond Pollution Risk Analysis (WTPRA), designed for multiple mine tailings ponds, stemming from previous watershed-scale accidental pollution risk assessments. Transferred and combined risk is embedded using risk rankings of multiple routes of the "source-pathway-target" in the WTPRA. The previous approach is modified using multi-criteria analysis, dam failure models, and instantaneous water quality models, which are modified for application to multiple tailings ponds. The study area covers the basin of Gutanting Reservoir (the largest backup drinking water source for Beijing) in Zhangjiakou City, where many mine tailings ponds are located. The resultant map shows that risk is higher downstream of Gutanting Reservoir and in its two tributary basins (i.e. Qingshui River and Longyang River). Conversely, risk is lower in the midstream and upstream reaches. The analysis also indicates that the most hazardous mine tailings ponds are located in Chongli and Xuanhua, and that Guanting Reservoir is the most vulnerable receptor. Sensitivity and uncertainty analyses are performed to validate the robustness of the WTPRA method.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15269–15284
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • risk analysis; mine tailings pond; heavy metal; water pollution; Guanting Reservoir; watershed


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