First global standard on tailings management set in mining

The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (the Standard) launched on Wednesday, establishes the first global standard on tailings management that can be applied to existing and future tailings facilities, wherever they are and whoever operates them.

Strengthening current practices in the mining industry by integrating social, environmental, local economic and technical considerations, the Standard covers the entire tailings facility lifecycle — from site selection, design and construction, through management and monitoring, to closure and post-closure.

With an ambition of zero harm to people and the environment, the Standard significantly raises the bar for the industry to achieve strong social, environmental and technical outcomes.

It elevates accountability to the highest organisational levels and adds new requirements for independent oversight.

The Standard also establishes clear expectations around global transparency and disclosure requirements, helping to improve understanding by interested stakeholders.

The Standard was developed through an independent process – the Global Tailings Review (GTR) -which was co-convened in March 2019 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) following the tragic tailings facility collapse at Brumadinho, Brazil, on January 25, 2019.

Bruno Oberle, Chair of the Global Tailings Review, said: “It is with great pleasure that I present the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, which sets a precedent for the safe management of tailings facilities, towards the goal of zero harm.

“The catastrophic dam collapse at Vale’s Corrego do Feijao mine in Brumadinho was a human and environmental tragedy that demanded decisive and appropriate action to enhance the safety and strengthen the governance of tailings facilities across the globe.”

Ligia Noronha, Director of UNEP’s Economy Division, said: “The approach to mine tailings facilities must place safety first by making environmental and human safety a priority in management actions and on-the-ground operations.

“The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management is an important milestone towards the ambition of zero harm to people and the environment from tailings facilities. Its impact will depend upon its uptake and UNEP will continue to be engaged in its rollout.”