Tailings

Bruno Oberle, Chair of the Global Tailings Review, has launched a public consultation on the draft Global Tailings Standard .

The consultation will collect feedback from all interested stakeholders in order to develop a robust, fit-for-purpose international standard for the safer management of tailings. The consultation ends on 31 December 2019.

The Global Tailings Review was co-convened by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) following the catastrophic tailings dam collapse at Brumadinho, Brazil on 25 January 2019, to establish an international standard on tailings facilities management.

The final Global Tailings Standard will need to be endorsed by all three Co-Convenors.

Should Upstream Tailings Storage Facilities be banned?

The public consultation will take place in two parts. Firstly, online via a survey which has been translated into seven languages.

Secondly, in-country consultations across a range of mining jurisdictions in the northern and southern hemispheres.

The draft Standard addresses six key topics:

  • requires mine operators to develop knowledge about the social, economic and environmental context of a proposed or existing tailings facility.
  •  focuses on the people living and working nearby. It requires human rights due diligence and meaningful engagement of project-affected people.
  • aims to review design, construction, operation and monitoring of tailings facilities.
  • focuses on ongoing management and governance of tailings facilities. It defines a number of key roles, essential systems and critical processes.
  • covers emergency preparedness and response in the event of a disaster, the re-establishment of ecosystems, and the long-term recovery of affected communities.
  • requires public access to information about tailings facilities in order for all stakeholders to be informed of the risks and impacts, management and mitigation plans, and performance monitoring.

The Chair and Expert Panel welcome feedback and suggestions from all stakeholders and will consider all comments and submissions received.

The Review is committed to transparency and once the final Standard is published, the Global Tailings Review will provide a consultation report that reflects feedback, key themes, topics and sentiments from different stakeholder groups, as well as how that feedback was processed and addressed in the final version of the Standard.

It is expected that the final Standard and accompanying recommendations report, which will outline broader proposals to support the uptake and implementation of the Standard, will be published in 2020.

Dr Oberle, Chair of the Global Tailings Review, says:

“The public consultation phase allows for critique, feedback and suggestions from others that both informs and enriches the draft Standard, and we invite all stakeholders to share their diverse insights and points of view to help drive the change process forward.

"The draft Standard is one part of a wider global drive to strengthen performance on tailings management and the requirements of the draft Standard can complement these initiatives, for example, in areas such as corporate governance and public reporting."

Tom Butler, CEO of ICMM says: 

“ICMM and its member companies co-convened the Global Tailings Review to develop a fit-for-purpose international standard for the safer management of tailings facilities and to help reassure communities, authorities, investors and other stakeholders in our industry.

"We note there is still much work to do in order for ICMM to endorse the final Standard. ICMM’s membership is committed to engaging in an open and transparent discussion and providing feedback through the consultation in order to ensure the final standard is both feasible and effective in meeting our shared goal.”

Ligia Noronha, Director of UNEP’s Economy Division, says:

“Tailings dam failures are no accidents. They are tragedies. While minerals are important to the green energy transition and sustainable development, ensuring human and ecosystem wellbeing is of paramount importance.

"UNEP has co-convened the global tailings review to develop an industry standard that ensures a greater responsibility, trust and assurance that minerals development will lead to positive outcomes for all.

"To this end, the public consultation is a strategic step in the process of development of this industry standard. We invite local communities and experts to express their opinion and contribute to making the standard as robust as possible.” 

Adam Matthews, from the Church of England Pensions Board representing the Principles for Responsible Development (PRI), says:

“The Brumadinho disaster should never have happened and as a result we are all challenged to look at how the issue of tailings dams are addressed both in terms of the legacy of tailings facilities, the future operation of existing tailings facilities and future standards when a company decides if a tailings facility is needed. 

"There are a number of responses underway and the development of a new standard by this Independent Review will be a key tool for companies in driving best practice.

"We are mindful that zero harm to people and environment has to be the objective and the standard has an important role to play to achieving a mining sector whose facilities are operating to such a standard.”