Tailings dam safety standards released

The Global Tailings Review (GTR), after working on the details since its establishment in March 2019 following the deadly Brumadinho dam collapse, has unveiled the outlines of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management.
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An illustrative guide to the new standards

Known as the Standard, the rules are applicable to both current and future tailings facilities. They have been designed to prevent dam failures such as the Brumadinho incident in Brazil by boosting current practices.

The panel, which was made up of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) said the entire life cycle of global tailings facilities are encompassed in the standards, from site selection to closure and post-closure outlines.

"With an ambition of zero harm to people and the environment, the Standard significantly raises the bar for the industry to achieve strong social, environmental and technical outcomes," the GTR said.

"It elevates accountability to the highest organisational levels and adds new requirements for independent oversight. The Standard also establishes clear expectations around global transparency and disclosure requirements, helping to improve understanding by interested stakeholders."

The Standard covers six key topics: affected communities; integrated knowledge base; design, construction, operation and monitoring of tailings facilities; management and governance; emergency response and long-term recovery; and public disclosure and access to information. There are 15 principles and a total of 77 specific auditable requirements for operators.

For example, miners will now be required to appoint at least one executive to be accountable for tailings safety at a project, and companies will have to examine all "feasible sites, technologies and strategies" in its search for new tailings facilities.

Additionally, the outlines require the development of a programme that ties incentives and performance reviews to facility integrity, at least in part. If a miner's dam should fail, the owners will now need to work with all stakeholders and agencies on reconstruction, recovery and restoration.

The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management is available here in English, Portuguese, Russian, French, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese.

"The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management … sets a precedent for the safe management of tailings facilities towards the goal of zero harm," GTR chair Bruno Oberle said.

"The catastrophic dam collapse at Vale's Corrego de Feijao mine in Brumadinho was a human and environmental tragedy that demanded decisive and appropriate action to enhance the safety and strengthen the governance of tailings facilities across the globe. I now call on all mining companies, governments and investors to use the Standard and to continue to work together to improve the safety of tailings facilities globally.

"It is my hope that the Standard will be supported by an independent body that can maintain the quality and further refine and strengthen the Standard over time."