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Public-images-osm logo.svg man_made = tailings_pond
Bützflethermoor Rotschlammdeponie Luftaufnahmen 2012-05-by-RaBoe-478-1.jpg
A body of liquid or slurry used to store byproducts of mining operations. Show/edit corresponding data item.
Group: man made
Used on these elements
should not be used on nodesshould not be used on waysmay be used on areas (and multipolygon relations)should not be used on relations (except multipolygon relations)
Useful combination
Status: approvedPage for proposal

A tailings pond, tailing pond, settling pond, or settling pit is an area in which waterborne tailings are pumped into a pond to allow the separation of solids from the water. The pond is generally impounded with a dam, and known as tailings impoundments or tailings dams.

Tailings are the materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction from the uneconomic fraction of an ore. (See:  Tailing ponds)

Since the purpose of tailing ponds is to contain hazardous substances, they are not constructed like reservoirs with water intended to flow through, which often helps to recognize them. Since many tailings ponds are partially fed by streams or rainwater in addition to ore processing, they will either outflow naturally, often with a water treatment facility for environmental remediation. It is also common to construct tailings ponds without any outflow.[1][2] In some cases, a tailings pond may have unremediated outflows to streams or rivers, causing undesireable environmental damage.

Tailings ponds are discernable based on their colorful (polluted) appearance and lack of outflow. Many of them are surrounded by characteristic dams or berms. Tailings ponds often (but not always) take man-made shapes. Often, tailings ponds can be found near a mining or otherwise obviously industrial operation.

Hot to map

Tailings ponds are tagged man_made=tailings_pond, and are mapped as an area with the line drawn at the high water mark if the pond regularly varies in size. Tailings ponds which vary in presence should also be tagged with intermittent=yes.

A body of water formed by  excavation at a quarry or gravel pit, or from  dredging operations are not tailings ponds if they are not used to store or remediate tailings. Such bodies of water can be tagged natural=water, possibly with appropriate sub-tags. There is not currently a consensus in the community as to how quarry lakes should be tagged beyond the top-level tag natural=water.

Tags used in combination

  • intermittent=yes - for tailings ponds, or portions of ponds, that are sometimes wet and sometimes dry.
  • resource=* - specifies the material associated with a tailings pond other resource extraction feature.
  • hazard=contamination - Indicates that the tailings pond is signed hazardous to human health.

Nearby features

The following table lists tagging that is useful for tagging separate features in and around tailings ponds:

Tag Used for
man_made=spoil_heap Dry tailings or spoils that are not submerged in a tailings pond.
waterway=dam A dam which is holding back a tailings pond.
man_made=embankment An embankment, which may be found encircling a tailings pond. Also see man_made=dyke
The overall land use of the site which includes the tailings pond.

A tailings pond may also have nearby incidental water areas that, while not used for storing tailings, are still contaminated through leakage or as a function of the tailings remediation process. Consider the following options for tagging these areas of contaminated water:



  1. Some tailings ponds may have unwanted outflow of toxic water, some may treat the water to reduce danger to surrounding
  2. though in some cases water may be at least partially used again for ore processing, see for example "W Polsce do procesu flotacji przede wszystkim używana jest woda pochodząca z odwodnienia kopalń. Jest ona wykorzystywana wielokrotnie i krąży w obiegu zamkniętym pomiędzy Zakładami Wzbogacania Rud a Obiektem Unieszkodliwiania Odpadów Wydobywczych „Żelazny Most”." where PR release of mining company mentions this reuse of water