Mining majors have responded to a request from the Church of England Pensions Board and the Swedish Council on Ethics for information on mining companies’ tailings storage facilities.
Gold Fields supports greater transparency in the mining sector on tailings management. The company’s tailings storage facilities’ (TSF) management disclosure document is available here.
Gold Fields currently manages 32 tailings facilities, of which 12 are active and one will be commissioned imminently. A further two are managed by Joint Venture operations.
Gold Fields maintains measures to manage its TSFs’ safety, including compliance with the International Council on Mining and Metals’ (ICMM) Tailings Governance Position Statement.
All Gold Fields’ TSFs, as well as associated pipeline and pumping infrastructure, are subject to an independent, external audit every three years – or more frequently where required by local circumstances or regulations – as well as regular internal inspections, monitoring and formal annual Engineer of Record reviews.
During 2017 and 2018, external and internal reviews of the company’s alignment with the ICMM position statements on water and tailings management were carried out. The conclusion was that we are aligned with both position statements.
Gold Fields supports and is contributing to the current work of the ICMM, UN Environment and the UN Principles for Responsible Investment to develop an international standard on tailings management, led by an independent panel of experts.
The standard will be based on best practices to ensure that tailings facility risks are managed appropriately, consistently and transparently.
Following the catastrophic failure of the tailings facility at the Corrego do Feijão iron ore mine in Brumadinho, Brazil, in January 2019, which left close to 300 people dead, Gold Fields’ operations carried out additional safety inspections at its facilities.
To further improve operational safety of its TSFs, Gold Fields is, where practical, evaluating the potential to move away from the construction of upstream facilities to centre-line or downstream designs, considering filtered and dry stacked tailings, as well as in-pit tailings disposal.
Gold Fields will also continue to review and, where applicable and practical, adopt leading practices in the design, construction, operation and closure (including post-closure) of its tailings dams.
Glencore has launched a microsite that provides detailed information on its TSFs.
Earlier this year, the world was shocked by the tragic and devastating impact of the Brumadinho dam failure in Brazil. Quite rightly, the mining sector’s investors and communities subsequently called on extractive companies to increase their disclosure on their TSFs.
Glencore says it is committed to operating in a responsible manner across all aspects of its business. This includes the management of the waste generated from its mining activities.
A TSF failure is unacceptable and represents a catastrophic risk. Glencore reviewed its catastrophic risks to understand whether they are adequately controlled and put in place appropriate management and mitigation measures.
Glencore utilises a group-wide approach to evaluating exposure to and the controls associated with all identified catastrophic hazards. This programme uses third party expertise to ensure that leading practice is incorporated into its approach.
TSFs have been part of Glencore’s catastrophic hazard evaluation programme for a number of years and have drawn on external expertise applying leading standards from CDA (Canadian Dam Association), ICOLD (International Commission on Large Dams) and ANCOLD (Australian National Committee on Large Dams).
Glencore’s Group-wide dam integrity and safety assurance programme involves an assessment against over 100 dam safety and leading practice criteria.
As part of its approach, it uses the services of Klohn Crippen Berger, one of the world’s leading experts on TSF assurance, to independently audit and assess the integrity and safety of its TSFs.
In addition, assets are required to conduct regular dam safety inspections, as well as undertaking independent dam safety audits.
“Safety is a core value at Glencore. The safety of our workforce and the communities living around our assets is a priority during all of our operational activities,” says Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg.
“Appropriately managing the safety of our TSFs is part of our commitment to act as a responsible operator and to minimise our direct and indirect impacts on the environment.”
Themba Mkwanazi, CE of Kumba, says:
“We have confidence in the integrity of the four tailings storage facilities that Kumba manages in South Africa’s Northern Cape province which are subject to the highest global safety and stewardship standards and are operated in accordance with the South African Mandatory Code of Practice on Mine Residue deposits as stipulated by the Department of Mineral Resources.
“These tailings storage facilities are also subject to Anglo American’s Mineral Residue Facilities and Water Management Structures standard.
“Anglo American’s mandatory Group Technical Standard was completely revised and updated in early 2014 and continues to be reviewed regularly. This standard goes beyond regulatory and other industry requirements in all host jurisdictions.
“As an industry, there is a clear ethical and moral imperative to do everything possible to ensure that tailings facilities are managed to the highest standards of safety, using appropriate advanced technologies, and to work together to build greater levels of trust with all our stakeholders.”
The four TSFs that Kumba manages are located at its two operating mines in the province of the Northern Cape, South Africa.
Of the four TSFs, one is an active facility, constructed as a water retaining structure, at Kolomela Mine, while three are located at Sishen Mine using the upstream method of construction, of which only one is active.
Upstream tailings dams are generally considered to be an appropriate design for facilities in dry and seismically stable regions with flat topography, including the locations of the TSFs managed by Kumba in South Africa. Kumba does not have an ownership interest in any other TSFs.
Anglo American’s Group Technical Standard, which applies to all TSFs managed by Kumba, sets minimum requirements for design criteria, monitoring, inspection and surveillance, and was peer-reviewed by international specialists.
In line with that standard, all TSFs managed by Kumba have a Competent Person in charge and an externally appointed Engineer of Record, providing continuous technical management from initial design and construction, to monitoring and support. A dedicated team of engineering specialists at Anglo American provides strategic direction and technical assurance.
Anglo American’s Group Technical Standard and other materials relating to TSFs are available here.
Anglo American Platinum has published details of its nine mineral residue facilities, comprising six managed tailings storage facilities (TSF) and three slag stockpiles.
Details of an additional eight TSFs at non-managed JV operations in which it has an ownership interest are also disclosed.
Chris Griffith, CEO of Anglo American Platinum, says:
“As part of the global efforts to improve the transparency around tailings storage facilities, we are providing detailed information on each of our facilities in response to a request from a number of global institutional investors.
“We have confidence in the integrity of Anglo American Platinum’s managed TSFs which are subject to the highest global safety and stewardship standards.
“Anglo American’s mandatory Mineral Residue Facilities and Water Management Structures standard was completely revised and updated in early 2014 and goes beyond regulatory and other industry requirements in all host jurisdictions, including in South Africa.
“We have also received assurances from the operators of non-managed joint venture facilities in which Anglo American Platinum has an interest relating to the safety of TSFs at those operations.”
Anglo American Platinum manages six active TSFs, five of which are in the Limpopo province of South Africa and one located in the Midlands province of Zimbabwe.
The company also manages three slag dumps, two located in the Limpopo province of South Africa, and one in the Midlands province of Zimbabwe.
In addition, at the non-managed joint venture operations, there are eight TSFs (two of which are currently on care and maintenance), which are located in the North West and Limpopo provinces of South Africa.
All of Anglo American Platinum’s managed tailings dams have been constructed using the upstream method, except the Blinkwater dam at Mogalakwena mine in the Limpopo province of South Africa, which uses a downstream method of construction, and Dam 1 at Unki mine, which uses a hybrid downstream and upstream method.
Upstream tailings dams are generally considered to be an appropriate design for facilities in dry and seismically stable regions with flat topography, including the locations of Anglo American Platinum’s TSFs in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Anglo American’s Group Technical Standard, which applies to all TSFs managed by Anglo American Platinum, sets minimum requirements for design criteria, monitoring, inspection and surveillance, and was peer-reviewed by international specialists.
In line with that standard, all TSFs managed by Anglo American Platinum have a Competent Person in charge and have appointed an external Engineer of Record, providing continuous technical management from initial design and construction, to monitoring and support. A dedicated team of engineering specialists at Anglo American provides strategic direction and technical assurance.
Anglo American’s Group Technical Standard and other materials relating to TSFs are available here.