Tailings disposal is vital with regards to appropriate mining procedures. Without proper disposal of the material that is separated from usable ore, massive harm can occur to the surrounding area. Tailings can be used in paste backfill or sealed up in a variety of ways, but simply leaving them out in the open, or disposing of them casually, can wreak environmental havoc. There are a number of rules and regulations that were put in place to mitigate instances of poor tailings disposal, and the fines levied against companies that ignore these laws can be huge.
One of the most famous examples of poor disposal practices, and the resulting expenses, is the case of Reserve Mining Company dumping taconite tailings into Lake Superior. From 1955 to 1980, the company poured their tailings into Lake Superior, at a rate of as much as 67,000 tons per day. In 1969, various environmental groups joined together to take the company to court, and for the next 12 years the company, the groups, and the surrounding community, fought about how best to handle the waste. Eventually, Reserve Mining Company built a $375 million tailings disposal facility some miles from Lake Superior. However, the iron ore waste that was dumped into the body of water from 1955 to 1980, still remains.