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Environmental groups propose tailings dam safety standards ahead of mining industry review

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Article
30 June 2020

Environmental groups propose tailings dam safety standards

Author: Reuters

Mining companies should be required to buy private insurance for tailings dams and their board of directors should be held legally responsible for any disasters, a coalition of 140 environmental groups said...The recommendations, which differ from standards to be published soon from a group that includes miners and investors, come as public scrutiny over tailings dams has intensified...Earthworks and MiningWatch Canada, two prominent environmental nonprofits, co-wrote the report earthworks.org/safety-first that includes 16 recommendations they hope will be adopted by regulators across the world...Tailings dams, which are embankments constructed near mines to store mining waste in a liquid or solid form, can sometimes tower dozens of meters high and stretch for several kilometers. They are the most common waste-disposal method for miners, but they can be dangerous...

Reuters reported last week that the Global Tailings Review (GTR), a panel of industry, investor and United Nations groups, had finalized its own tailings dam standards, which are not binding...The GTR’s final standards do not require private insurance and do not place final culpability with a company’s board. Instead, they call for appointing at least one executive responsible for tailings dam safety who is accountable to the chief executive and has regular communication with the board.

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Report
30 June 2020

Full report

Author: Earthworks & MiningWatch Canada

...Guidelines:

1. Make safety the guiding principle in design, construction, operation, and closure...

2. Ban new tailings facilities immediately upstream from inhabited areas...

3. Ban upstream dams at new mines and close existing upstream facilities...

4. Any potential loss of life is an extreme event and design must respond accordingly...

5. Mandate the use of Best Available Technology for tailings, in particular filtered tailings...

6. Implement rigorous controls for safety...

7. Evaluate and characterize the dam foundation and the tailings and estimate their relationship to risk...

8. Appropriate monitoring systems must be in place to identify and mitigate risk...

9. Ensure the independence of reviewers to promote safety...

10. Towards zero failure after mine closure...

11. Consent of Affected Communities...

12. Grievance procedures and whistleblowers...

13. Emergency preparedness and response...

14. Information regarding mine safety must be made publicly available...

15. Addressing financial risks...

16. Accountability for risk, minimizing consequences, preventing failure, and the consequences of failure must primarily rest with the Board of Directors...

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Report
30 June 2020

Safety First: Guidelines for Responsible Mine Tailings Management

Author: Earthworks & MiningWatch Canada

The 2019 mine tailings dam collapse near Brumadinho, Brazil, killed over 250 people and decimated houses and buildings for kilometers...Tailings facilities, which contain the processed waste materials generated from mining metals and minerals, are failing with increasing frequency and severity. Current industry standards, including the draft of the Global Tailings Standard released in 2019, do not go far enough to adequately protect communities and ecosystems from failures...The safest tailings facility is the one that is not built. To avoid the long-term liability of mine waste sites and their social and environmental impacts, we must reduce the volume of tailings produced, as well as the overall demand for primary raw minerals.

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