Given the global challenges around mine waste, particularly around tailings, the Global Mineral Professionals Alliance (GMPA) – a multinational collaboration between professional organisations for minerals – has officially announced that it will undertake the Global Action on Tailings initiative.
The initiative was first proposed at a meeting of the GMPA last month, which was held in Denver, Colorado, in conjunction with the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) Conference and Expo.
In addition to examining tailings from the perspective of disposal and closure, the initiative seeks to advance discussions and solutions relating to tailings management, tailings reprocessing or repurposing and, ultimately, a move towards tailings elimination.
“Tailings management is the most pressing issue facing the minerals sector,” said Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum president Janice Zinck.
“Collectively, the GMPA has thousands of experts in all aspects of mining and milling relating to tailings generation, reprocessing and management, [and] its members are well placed to address this complex topic from a scientific, fact-based perspective.”
The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) fully supports this important initiative,” added SAIMM president Alastair Macfarlane.
He stated that recent events had galvanised the focus on the design, placement and management of waste storage facilities, while emphasising the need for research to reduce the use of such facilities. “The sharing of global knowledge in these efforts is essential – not only to pool global knowledge but also to prevent sub-optimisation on a local basis.”
Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy president Janine Herzig added her endorsement of the initiative, specifically referencing January’s Brumadinho dam tragedy in Brazil.
SME president Professor Hugh Miller noted that, in the coming months, GMPA organisations would collaborate to develop working groups that could effectively address the challenges associated with tailings management at existing impoundments, as well as focus on the need to reduce and, ultimately, eliminate the use of conventional surface tailings storage facilities.
“We have tremendous technical capacity to confront these challenges through our members and fully recognise the need for global collaboration to make substantive change,” Miller stated.
Data collection, dissemination of existing best practices, case studies and research through a forthcoming GMPA Global Action on Tailings website are part of a multipronged approach to address the challenges surrounding tailings.
Tailings teams would be established in each of the participating GMPA organisations. Experts on all aspects of tailings management and processing would be involved in addressing the issue.
“The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) members have significant experience in these issues and the institute holds an immense amount of research material from across the world on all aspects of tailings management,” noted IOM3 president Professor Serena Best.
“This important initiative will help us apply expertise and knowledge to address this significant challenge.”
The SAIMM will hold a Tailings Storage conference in October to emphasise support for the initiative in a Southern African context, and a GMPA think-tank event will be held in Arequipa, Peru, in September, in conjunction with PERUMIN – Convención Minera.
“The Institute of Mining Engineers of Peru (IIMP) is delighted to host the inaugural Global Action on Tailings event, in Arequipa, this coming September,” added former Peruvian IIMP president Antonio Samaniego.
The GMPA also hopes to work collaboratively with the International Council on Mining and Metals, which recently announced its intention to establish an independent panel of experts to develop an international standard for tailings facilities for its member companies.