The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (the standard) has recently been launched with the aim of improving the safety of tailings facilities in the mining industry. The development of the standard follows the collapse of one of Vale’s tailings dam facilities in Brumadinho, Brazil in January 2019. The human and environmental tragedy killed 270 people and resulted in huge economic losses.
The standard, which contains 15 principles and 77 specific, auditable requirements, is the first global standard applicable to existing and future tailings facilities anywhere in the world.
Robin Bolton, Head of Sustainability at IsoMetrix, weighs in on the importance of this development: "The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management has certainly been carefully constructed with contributions from a wide range of stakeholders. The principles and associated requirements will go a long way towards the industry achieving the ultimate goals of zero harm and minimal environmental impact."
The standard’s integrated assessment of the social, environmental, economic and technical aspects of tailings facilities embodies the current best practice approach to risk management. The standard covers the whole tailings facility lifecycle – from site selection, design and construction, across management and monitoring, to closure and post-closure. On an organizational level, adhering to the standard will result in increased accountability, clear expectations around global transparency and disclosure requirements – and improve understanding of reporting requirements for stakeholders.
"The challenge is now for mining companies to implement the standard and to be in conformance between 3 to 5 years depending on the facilities consequence classification,” says Robin. He continues to explain the implications of the standard for organizations: “This will require a concerted effort utilizing experienced resources, systems and technology. It is encouraging to hear that the ICMM will integrate the standard into the membership commitments and that ICMM members’ immediate priority is to ensure its implementation."
How IsoMetrix is responding to the standard
IsoMetrix has developed a Tailings Management Solution (TMS) to enable mining companies to effectively manage and report on tailings dam risks and obligations. There is a close alignment of this solution to the operating and closure requirements of the new standard, especially regarding:
- Monitoring aspects
- Understanding and managing risks
- Assessing controls to reduce consequences of events
- Roles and accountability to be captured
When information is centralized, secure and accessible, it aids in transparency for third party assurers in validating the data. The IsoMetrix TMS allows a company to better manage their tailings facilities, thus providing confidence to stakeholders, investors and potentially affected communities.
"We are proactively and tangibly supporting mining companies by enhancing our current solution," explains Robin. "The following aspects of the TMS will be enhanced to meet specifics of the new standard and for technology advancements: