Tailings Management for Responsible MiningBy Paloma Duran | Thu, 02/11/2021 - 18:39
The implementation of global standards and technology to improve tailings management was discussed during Mexico Mining Forum 2021’s third panel on Thursday, Feb. 11, “Technology for Safer and More Sustainable Tailings.” The panel was moderated by Kim Morrison, Global Tailings Manager at Newmont, who said that anyone's tailings failure is a failure for the entire mining industry. “We must collectively address the challenges of tailings. The future requires not only the adoption of best practices, but also of the best technology.”
Morrison highlighted that tailings accidents, such as the 2014 failure in Canada and the 2019 one in Brazil, have change environment regulation around the world. She explained that in response to the 2019 Brazil accident, ICMM, PRI and UNEP developed an international standard on tailings facilities published in 2020.
Elaine Baker, GRID-Arendal's Global Tailings Dam Portal Project Expert, explained that in recent years, several organizations have promoted ethical mining by providing global standards, such as Global Tailings Portal, which provides information from mining companies about their tailing’s storage facilities. Baker emphasized that the platform has information on 115 mining companies, 309 operators, 758 mining sites and 1,853 tailings storage facilities. The platform and standards were created with the help of an excellent advisory group formed by social and environmental organizations. As a result, the standard has an ESG-oriented perspective. In addition, Baker said that for Phase 2 of the platform, they want to establish a multi-stakeholder advisory group, who would review issues and align them to Global Tailings standards, while providing more information to companies.
Mitchell Krebs, CEO of Coeur Mining, said the company pursues high standards and that Coeur's operational risk reduction plan on tailings dams follows authorized international guidelines, effective filtration and hydraulic control systems, as well as an excellent tailings management track record, among others. Krebs also mentioned that the tailings of Palmarejo, Coeur’s operation in Mexico, are classified as non-potentially acid generating and that any water discharged to the environment passes through a secondary inverse osmosis treatment to comply with environmental regulations.
“People can tell if your being honest or not. That is part of the core of who we are. If you do not tell your story, someone else will,” said Krebs. He emphasized that mining companies must be consistent and clear with their messages, so people know the positive actions that the company is implementing. Krebs said that when there is lack of information, people can assume the worst. Therefore, companies must raise awareness concerning the many benefits of mining. "This industry has been under the radar for a long time and is missing a great opportunity because there are so many stories that show the positive impacts of mining." The company is always trying to adapt and learn best practices and given the importance of tailings in mining, the company is ensuring their control and promoting their good management, which also provides financial and operational benefits.
“We have generated innovation around tailings. However, as a junior company it is difficult. We do not have as many resources available but we are working on our ESG right now," said Bradley Langille, CEO of Gogold Resources. Langille mentioned that GoGold has one producing asset in Mexico, the Parrat Tailings project in Chihuahua, where the company has been transporting tailings to a heap leach facility that is 14km from the city of Parral. Langille said that among its ESG actions, the company provides numerous social and environmental benefits, as well as great returns for all shareholders. "Most of our workers are Mexican citizens. This allows us to have a better relationship with the communities and really provide what they need."
Langille said the company is taking important steps toward incorporating ESG practices, which have been highly promoted by investors and institutions. Langille concluded that there are many consequences if tailings are not managed properly and that the mining industry must act responsibly as a community.