BHP has outlined how its tailings storage management plan will achieve zero harm to people or environment with a top-down approach.
The multinational miner’s tailings storage facility management update for 2021 showed a strong understanding that tailings management was an ongoing consideration, as standards develop, technology improves, and individual site conditions change.
BHP chief executive officer Mike Henry said tailings was just another part of the company’s big picture in reinforcing its position as a responsible operator.
“As an industry, we must constantly challenge the standards we set for safety, to protect our people, the environment and the communities in which we operate. The management of tailings is no exception,” Henry said.
In 2019, BHP embedded a taskforce to administer tailings management strategies and to monitor the company’s global performance.
This coincided with the Global Tailing Review (GTR), which saw a panel of experts appointed by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), among others, to develop a global industry standard on tailings management (GISTM).
“BHP is committed to meet or exceed the requirements of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management by the dates outlined by ICMM,” Henry said.
“With a critical mass of participants within the ICMM, we are able to better define minimum requirements in a common language across the industry and generate the urgency and action required to make a sustained difference.”
The GISTM provides a framework for operators around the world to strive for safer tailings management, with a goal of zero harm to people and the environment.
BHP’s update on tailings management recognised the issue must start with a ‘corporate level self-assessment’, which was atop its list of steps towards GISTM conformance.
Henry also recognised the industry-wide effort required to mitigate the many risks involved with tailings storage and management.
“This global standard will help raise the bar for tailings storage facilities management across the industry and allow us to share learnings with our peers for the safety of people and the environment,” Henry said.
Looking forward, BHP has partnered with Rio Tinto and the University of Western Australia to provide $2 million each over 5 years.
The money will be used to deliver training, research, and practice guideline resources.
BHP’s presentation outlined the cooperative approach it will take as the industry improves its understanding and management of tailings storage.
“We are committed to working with the mining ecosystem to continue engaging in collaborative programs to pool collective knowledge, experience and resources within the industry to facilitate the effective de-risking of these technologies,” the presentation stated.