Environmental investments


Compliance with rigorous environmental standards laid down by the law is possible thanks to the consistent modernization of our existing installations to protect the environment, as well as new investments in this area. In 2021, the Company spent more than PLN 446 million on environmentally-friendly investments, of which the largest expenditures, in the amount of over PLN 199 million, were incurred on developing the Żelazny Most Tailings Storage Facility.

Value of capital expenditures for environmental protection in 2021 [PLN thousand]







Best practice

KGHM is opening the Southern Quarter - an innovative solution to care for safety and the environment.

The Southern Quarter, forming part of the Żelazny Most Tailings Storage Facility, is the largest investment of KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. since 2018. Despite the pandemic, the expansion of this facility was completed 7 months ahead of schedule.  The Żelazny Most Facility is now the largest and best monitored facility of its type in Europe, and one of the largest in the world. It is a crucial element in the copper production process.

The Żelazny Most Tailings Storage Facility located in Lower Silesia is the best monitored tailings storage facility in Europe. It is the destination for mine tailings from the mines owned by KGHM Polska Miedź. Along with the Southern Quarter, which has been built onto the Main Facility, it occupies an area of more than 2,000 hectares. This facility is surrounded on all sides by earth embankments whose total perimeter exceeds 20 km and whose height ranges from 54 to 76 meters. Approximately 30 million tonnes of mine tailings a year are deposited in this facility.

Innovative technologies

Taking into consideration the substantially smaller surface area of the Southern Quarter compared to the Main Facility, innovative thickened waste technology was used. This is a revolutionary method from the vantage point of developing and continuing to operate the Żelazny Most Tailings Storage Facility. The main facility employs a technology in which the deposited material is silted from the centre. Flotation waste is delivered to the processing plants by water transport. The slurry transported to the TSF is directed into distribution pipelines situated at the embankment crest from which the slurry is spigotted towards the site’s central area. The coarse fraction is used for the superstructure of the next levels of the Tailings Storage Facility. The fine material seals the bottom of the bowl of the TSF. This facility is raised solely by using flotation tailings without having to transport any additional materials.

The Southern Quarter’s main embankment was built using the downstream method. The Southern Quarter’s embankments were sealed and drainage layers were constructed to capture the runoff water from the tailings and return that water into the closed-cycle system. This new technology reduces water losses and infiltration into the bedrock.

A Tailings Segregation and Compacting Station to select waste was built next to the Quarter. The coarse fraction was used to build the body of the embankments, while the fine fraction, after thickening, will be used inside the Quarter. Using this technology makes it possible to utilize the facility’s surface area effectively. It does not require a large body of water but merely a small storage facility to capture the runoff water from the tailings. Thickening the tailings and reducing the quantity of water in the basin as a result substantially enhances the safety of the facility.

Highest standards of safety

The facility is monitored constantly. The constant monitoring of the Żelazny Most Tailings Storage Facility spans multiple processes shaping the facility’s operational safety and possible threats to adjacent areas and the environment. The scope of monitoring applicable to the facility and the environment in its immediate surroundings encompasses the following actions: tracking the quantity of precipitation, testing the substances and index parameters in surface, runoff and underground water, measuring the level of underground water in observation boreholes, checking how the surface of the Tailings Storage Facility settles using established survey benchmarks, measuring the density of runoff water, seismic monitoring, monitoring the air, soil and plants, monitoring animal health and monitoring noise. Geological exploration is also underway in the region of the Żelazny Most Tailings Storage Facility. This encompasses the following: field tests, taking samples for lab tests, geophysical tests based on exploration boreholes, static sampling, open well and standpipe piezometers, inclinometers, drainage and reduction wells, electrical resistivity profiles.

For nearly 30 years this facility has been supervised directly by an extensive group of experts and scientists who take part in regular meetings (Construction Boards) to discuss all of the issues related to designing, monitoring and expanding the Żelazny Most Tailings Storage Facility.

The Żelazny Most Tailings Storage Facility fully protects the natural environment from water collected in the facility. When expanding the facility to include the Southern Quarter, the safest scenario was followed to build and seal the embankments in hydroengineering and environmental terms. Budimex conducted this investment project. More than 100 machines worked on the construction and some of them were purchased especially for this investment. Work progress was laser scanned and updated in the BIM system in cooperation with the BIM Innovation Team in the Engineering Department.

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