Rio Tinto to bolster tailings management after Vale incident

Rio Tinto plans to strengthen how its global portfolio of tailings dams is managed in the wake of Vale’s latest disaster in Brazil.

The company has launched the review of a global standard for tailings and water storage facility management that it established in August 2015.

It will use the review to assess how the company can boost the existing external audit of facilities that it has in place.

Rio Tinto has 100 tailings dams, including 21 upstream construction facilities, across 32 global sites. There are also a further 36 sites that are closed or under rehabilitation at its operations.

In Australia, Rio Tinto has 51 tailings facilities that are either active, under rehabilitation, closed or under construction. Nine of these facilities are upstream dams, according to company data.

The company’s facilities are currently managed by three levels of governance and assurance, while also being supported by a safety management system.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques said the entire industry had a responsibility to do better.

“Rio Tinto is committed to play its part in any industry response, including an independent expert review,” Jacques said.

Since Vale’s tailings dam incident at the Feijao iron ore mine on January 25 a series of leading global miners have responded in shock and emphasised a need to bolster their own management of tailings facilities.

BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie this week said the company “must redouble our efforts” to make sure events like this don’t happen.

South32 last week revealed that it spent $US37 million in 2018 and $US57 million in 2019 on the management of its dams around the world.

Rio Tinto joins these companies in reassuring the industry of its tailings dam management processes and future plans to improve on this practice.

“In light of this tragic event, Rio Tinto is again reviewing its global standard and, in particular, assessing how we can further strengthen the existing external audit of facilities,” Jacques said.

“We fully support the need for greater transparency which is why today we disclosed detailed information on our tailing facilities and how they are actively managed. We will add to this over time.”

The Brazilian Government has decided to impose a ban on all upstream tailings dams facilities by 2021 following the Feijao mine incident, which has left at least 169 people dead.

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