The Agua Dulce tailings dam failure, 1915

The first known disaster due to the failure of mine tailings dams took place on 15th June 1915 in the mining village of Sewell, Province of Rancagua, Chile.

After days of intense precipitation, there was a mud spill from the summit of the tailings dam’s embankment serving the Agua Dulce copper mine when it was in full activity.

Following mud overflowing, the 61 m high embankment collapsed due to flow failure. Some 180,000 cubic metres of material leaked out of the impoundment. No data are available concerning environmental damage or loss of human lives.

Chronology of major tailings dam failures