World-first public tailings database marks Brumadinho’s first anniversary

Director of the GRID-Arendal office at the University of Sydney Elaine Baker.

Environmental organisation GRID-Arendal has received UN Environment Program’s support to launch the world’s first publicly accessible global database of mine tailings and storage facilities.

It will allow users to view detailed information on more than 1900 tailings dams, categorised by location, company, dam type, height, volume and risk, among other factors.

Following the Brumadinho disaster last year, institutional investors led by the Church of England Pensions Board asked 726 of the world’s largest mining companies to disclose details about their tailings dam.

Many of them complied, allowing for information to be incorporated into the database.

“This portal could save lives,” GRID-Arendal director and University of Sydney professor Elaine Baker said.

“Tailing dams are getting bigger and bigger. Mining companies have found most of the highest-grade ores and are now mining lower-grade ones, which create more waste. With this information, the entire industry can work towards reducing dam failures in the future.”

GRID-Arendal program leader for geological resources added: “Most of this information has never before been publicly available.”

Very little data was accessible when GRID-Arendal began in-depth research on mine tailings dams in 2016.

Until now, there has been no central database detailing the location and quantity of the mining industry’s liquid and solid waste, known as tailings, according to the University of Sydney.

The database is backed by more than $US13 trillion ($19 trillion) funds under management, and was launched at Westminster Abbey in London last week.

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