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Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management Published

By Alejandro Ehrenberg | Tue, 08/18/2020 - 10:18

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) jointly launched the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management. This is the first global standard on tailings management that can be applied to existing and future tailings facilities, wherever they are and whoever operates them, UNEP reported.

Strengthening current practices in the mining industry by integrating social, environmental, local economic and technical considerations, the standard covers the entire tailings facility lifecycle — from site selection, design and construction, management and monitoring, to closure and post-closure, UNEP noted.

With the intention of causing no harm to people and the environment, the standard significantly raises the bar for the industry to achieve strong social, environmental and technical outcomes. It elevates accountability to the highest organizational 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, UNEP explained.

The standard was developed through an independent process — the Global Tailings Review (GTR) — which was co-convened in March 2019 by UNEP, PRI and ICMM following the tragic tailings facility collapse at Brumadinho on Jan. 25, 2019. UNEP will support governments that wish to incorporate and build upon the standard throubh their national or state legislation and policies. PRI, representing US$103.4 trillion in assets under management, will be developing investor expectations to support all mining companies in implementing the standard. ICMM member companies will implement the standard as a commitment of membership, which includes robust site-level validation and third-party assessments.  

“The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management sets a precedent for the safe management of tailings facilities towards the goal of zero harm. The catastrophic dam collapse at Vale’s Córrego de Feijão mine in Brumadinho was a human and environmental tragedy that demanded decisive and appropriate action to enhance the safety and to strengthen the governance of tailings facilities across the globe. I am particularly pleased to deliver a document that reflects and addresses the complexity and multi-disciplinary nature of sound tailings management. I 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,” Bruno Oberle, GTR Chair, said.

UNEP pointed out that 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. These topics contain 15 principles and 77 specific auditable requirements for operators to adhere to.

The GTR was chaired by Oberle with the support of a multi-disciplinary expert panel and input from a multi-stakeholder advisory group, UNEP said. It involved extensive public consultation with affected communities, government representatives, investors, multilateral organizations and mining industry stakeholders and is informed by existing good practices and findings from past tailings facility failures, UNEP added.

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Alejandro Ehrenberg Alejandro Ehrenberg Journalist and Industry Analyst