Miners to get global standard for tailings facilities

Image: ICMM

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) will develop an international standard for tailings facilities for its member companies, of which include BHP and Vale.

The standard will be set by an independent panel and include a transparent classification system in an effort to prevent the recent tailings incident that is estimated to result in over 150 deaths in Brazil.

It will also put up a system for independent reviews of tailings facilities and requirements for emergency planning.

Federal prosecutor Jose Adercia Sampaio said last month prosecutors would investigate if the same causes for Samarco’s dam breach in 2015 – a lack of monitoring, incomplete information and neglect – were behind Vale’s recent incident.

The Samarco dam failure – a joint venture between BHP and Vale – also collapsed in the same region of Minas Gerais in November 2015, less than four years since Vale’s January disaster.

“ICMM CEOs have committed to creating a step change for the industry in the safety of tailings facilities by developing a recognised international standard for member companies,” ICMM chief executive Tom Butler said.

“The standard will be based on best practices to ensure that tailings facility risks are managed appropriately, consistently and transparently.”

CEOs of the 27 member companies have agreed to initiate work to define technical guidance for the safe design, construction, operation and closure of tailings facilities.

They will also develop a database to facilitate learning and knowledge sharing across the industry, and optimise the industry’s existing research and training initiatives.

“While the standard would become a member commitment, ICMM will encourage others to join us in advocating for it to be adopted more broadly,” Butler concluded.

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