Mine Tailings Storage: Safety Is No Accident
The approach to tailings storage facilities must place safety first by making environmental and human safety a priority in management actions and on-the-ground operations. Regulators, industry and communities should adopt a shared zero-failure objective to tailings storage facilities where “safety attributes should be evaluated separately from economic considerations, and cost should not be the determining factor” (Mount Polley expert panel, 2015, p. 125) ili f ili i l f fi i i l f i i i i i . l , i i i l f il j i ili f ili i f i l l l f i i i , l i i f (
Establish a UN Environment stakeholder forum to facilitate international strengthening of tailings dam regulation. li i l f f ili i i l i f ili
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Expand mining regulations to include independent monitoring and the enforce- ment of financial and criminal sanctions for non-compliance. i i r l ti t i l i t it ri t f r - t f fi i l ri i l ti f r non-complian .
Encourage the development of technological solutions to eliminate the main causes of failures. Encourage innovation in the reuse and recycling of mine tailings. Compile and review existing regulations and best practice guidance. Fund research into mine tailings storage failures and management of active, inactive and abandoned mine sites. Establish an accessible public-interest, global database of mine sites, tailings storage facilities and research. t l t f t l i l l ti t li i t t f f il r . i ti i th r r li f i t ili . il and review existing regulati t racti i . r r i t i t ili t r f il r t f ti , i ti ine sites. t li a i l li -i t r t, l l t f i it , t ili t r f iliti r r . i
Establish a global financial assurance system for mine-sites. Fund a global insurance pool. t li l l fi i l r t f r i - it . l l i r l.
Regularly publish disaster management plans. Increase gender diversity and broaden skill sets on company boards. Establish independent waste review boards to conduct and publish independent technical reviews prior to, during construction or modification, and throughout the lifespan of tailings storage facilities. Avoid dam construction methods known to be high risk. Ensure any project assessment or expansion publishes all externalized costs, with an independent life-of-mine sustainability cost-benefit analysis. Require detailed and ongoing evaluations of potential failure modes, residual risks and perpetual management costs of tailings storage facilities. Enforce mandatory financial securities for life of the mine. l l li i t r t l . I r i r it r ill t r . t li i t t r i r t t li i t t i l r i ri r t , ring tr ti r ificati , t r t t lif f t ili storage facilities. i tr ti t t i risk. r j t t r i li ll t r li t , it i t lif - f- i t i ilit t- fit l i . i t il i l ti f t ti l f il r , r i l ri r t l t t f t ili t r f iliti . t r fi i l riti f r life of the mine. Ban or commit to avoid riverine disposal and avoid submarine disposal unless justified by independent review. it t i ri ri i l i ri i l l j tifi i t r i . f
Addresses unmet liabilities from major tailings dam failures. Ensures best practice in tailings management, monitoring and rehabilitation Addresses t li iliti fr j r t ili f il r . t r ti i t ili t, it ri r ilit ti
Establishes a basis for improved regulation and consistent best practice. t li a basis for improved r l ti i t t t r ti .
The path to zero failures (IEEIRP 2015). Reduces the volume of tailings stored and potentially creates additional business opportunities. t t r f il r (I I ). t l f t ili t r t ti ll r t additional business opportunities. Assists in educating people to make informed decisions. i t i ti l t i f r i i .
Clarifies responsibility for tailings dam performance. Provides transparency on disaster planning. l ifi r i ilit f r t ili rf r . tra r i t r l i .
Reduces risk of dam failure by providing independent expert oversight. Reduces risk of failure by eliminating less stable methods of dam construction. Protects the environment from less controlled waste disposal. Improves governance and corporate social responsibility. ri f f il r r i i i t rt r i t. ri f f il r li i ti l t l t f tr ti . t t t ir t fr l tr ll I r r r t i l r i ilit .
Note : Some of these important actions are already being undertaken or partially implemented in a number of jurisdictions. The aim is to ensure best practice is enacted at all mine sites where tailings are stored. t : f t s i rt t ti s r lr y i rt k r rti lly i l t i r f j ris i ti s. i is t s r st r ti is t t ll i sit s r t ili s r st r .
Figure 2. Recommendations and suggested actions for stopping tailings dam failures
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