Leading miners support new measures for tailings dam management

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) is taking measures to help ensure an incident like the Samarco tailings dam failure does not happen again.

ICMM has introduced a new initiative that will bind its 23 member companies to further improve the management of mine tailings throughout their global operations.

The move comes after ICMM launched a global tailings review in December 2015 following the Samarco iron ore mine disaster in Brazil, which claimed 19 lives.

Samarco, a joint venture between BHP Billiton and Brazil’s Vale, has been closed since the November 2015 incident.

According to ICMM, the review acknowledges that an increased emphasis on governance is needed to ensure that the extensive existing technical and management guidance is more effectively applied.

ICMM has issued a new position statement, which has been unaninously endorsed by the chief executives of the member companies, that commits members to minimise the risk of tailings dams failures by adopting six key elements of management and governance.

The six elements are: accountability, responsibility and competency; planning and resourcing; risk management; change management; emergency preparedness and response; and review and assurance.

ICMM chief executive officer Tom Butler said after the tragic failure of the Samarco tailings dam it had to determine how to best help minimise the risk of recurrence of such an event.

“We were determined to take action at the global level and all of our member companies have adopted this new binding agreement. We hope that non-member companies will also consider adopting this framework in order to help enhance the whole industry’s performance,” Butler said.

Dirk van Zyl, a member of the expert panel constituted for the review, added: “The review did not cover how or why the Samarco tailings dam failed, but takes lessons from the tragic event as well as from other tailings dam failures.

“It find that a higher level of governance and assurance is key to confirming existing safety standards are implemented consistently.”

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