South32 puts tailings management front and centre

Image: South32

South32 has highlighted tailings safety in its 2019 first half report, emphasising the company’s dam management standards.

The company highlighted its operational tailings dam inventory (18 active, 15 inactive), capital expenditure on tailings dams in 2018 ($US37 million) and 2019 ($US57 million), and tailings-related history dating back to May 2015.

This was in stark contrast with the company’s half-year reports for 2017 and 2018, which did not mention tailings management or dams at all.

Although South32’s large tailings dams are all in Australia, this emphasis possibly comes in response to Vale’s Brumadinho tailings dam disaster in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil last month that killed 165 people, with 155 more still missing and presumed dead.

South32 is a spin-out of BHP (which partnered with Vale at the Samarco iron ore project that also suffered a massive tailings breach in November 2015), and is also involved with Brazil through its share in the Brazil Alumina bauxite operation.

“As an industry we need to build trust, increase transparency and establish a common reporting framework,” the South32 report read.

Workforce diversity was another highlight of the report, with South32 reporting 17 per cent of its workforce as female (the same percentage recorded in its 2018 full year report) and 46 per cent of its South African management as black people (a 1 per cent increase on its 2018 full year report).

Financially, South32 reported strong results for the half year ended December 31 2018, delivering a 9 per cent increase in revenue to $US3.8 billion and a 17 per cent increase in post-tax profit to $US635 million over the previous corresponding period.

The company plans to pay a dividend of $US5.1 cents per share to shareholders on April 4.

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