ICMM launches tailings management protocols

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has launched two new resources the organisation has said will support continual improvement in the safe and transparent management of tailings facilities.
ICMM launches tailings management protocols ICMM launches tailings management protocols ICMM launches tailings management protocols ICMM launches tailings management protocols ICMM launches tailings management protocols

Standards aim to raise the bar and make all tailings facilities safer

The new resources are: Conformance Protocols for the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (known as the Standard) and a Tailings Management: Good practice guide.

When ICMM launched the Standard alongside the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) in August 2020, members committed that all tailings facilities with ‘extreme' or ‘very high' potential consequences will be in conformance with the Standard by August 2023, and all other facilities by August 2025.

To support this timeline, ICMM has developed a set of Conformance Protocols to help operators and independent third parties assess implementation of the Standard's requirements across tailings facilities. They map to the Standard's 77 requirements using 219 clear and concise criteria, enabling conformance against all applicable requirements to be assessed. ICMM said that effective assessment of conformance to the Standard through its Conformance Protocols will help to demonstrate to all stakeholders that responsible practices are being applied across the tailings lifecycle.

ICMM has also launched a Tailings Management: Good practice guide that aims to promote good governance and engineering practices that support continuous improvement in the management of new and existing tailings facilities, and to strengthen the ‘safety culture' within companies with the ultimate goal of eliminating fatalities and catastrophic events.



The guide provides comprehensive guidance on tailings management, covering a broad range of technical and engineering elements, including improved engineering practices across the whole tailings lifecycle: from project conception and design to construction and operation, closure and post-closure.

It integrates stronger governance around four key areas: 1) corporate policy, accountability and responsibility; 2) operation, maintenance and surveillance activities; 3) information management; and 4) oversight and emergency preparedness. It also reinforces the importance of engaging with local communities and regulators.

ICMM said that it is the first guidance that clearly details the roles of board directors and executives relating to tailings management.

The guide includes a performance-based, risk-informed approach advocated by Professor Norbert Morgenstern, distinguished university professor (emeritus) at the University of Alberta in Canada, who is a world leading expert in tailings management and was actively engaged in the guide's development. This approach centres on continuous monitoring to confirm that a tailings facility is performing as intended, which provides a rigorous technical basis for decision making and proactive management.

These two resources are publicly available in English on ICMM's website for use by the wider mining and metals industry and are in the process of being translated into several languages. ICMM said it will continue to promote the education of tailings professionals by adapting the guide into training material to support knowledge building and training at the site level. In addition to focusing on management, ICMM's comprehensive approach to tailings includes driving progress towards a longer-term goal of reducing or eliminating tailings.


Aidan Davy, COO at ICMM, said: "ICMM and our members have an unwavering commitment to the safe management of tailings facilities, and the publication of our Conformance Protocols: Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management and Tailings Management: Good practice guide are an important step towards achieving our ambition of zero harm.

"The Standard established clear expectations around global transparency and disclosure, including requirements for independent oversight. Effective assessment of conformance to the Standard through the Conformance Protocols will help to demonstrate to all stakeholders that responsible practices are being applied across the tailings lifecycle. And we hope that they are widely adopted as a basis for assessing conformance by all those who share our commitment. The guide provides a comprehensive resource that will help companies to continually learn and improve, raising the bar to make all tailings facilities safer."

Professor Morgenstern added: "The construction and operation of a tailings storage facility is a highly dynamic process. Therefore, reliable confirmation of safety requires an equally dynamic process applied to the full lifecycle of the facility so that it can, in turn, reassure all stakeholders. Progress in this regard has already been made by the publication of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management.

"While the task of determining the cause of failure is simpler after the event, I have evaluated ICMM's Tailings Management: Good practice guide in terms of my experience with a significant number of tailings dam failures and related serious incidents and concluded that had this guide been available and adopted, these incidents should not have occurred."