- The ICMM's Conformance Protocols for the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (1.17 MB)
- The ICMM's Tailings Management Good Practice Guide (3.57 MB)
The organisation lobbying for a safe, fair and sustainable mining and metals industry, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), has launched two new resources to support continual improvement in the safe and transparent management of tailings facilities.
These resources include Conformance Protocols for the existing Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management and the Tailings Management Good Practice Guide. The guide represents the culmination of many years of work by ICMM member companies and external experts.
The January 25, 2019, catastrophic tailings dam collapse at Vale’s Córrego de Feijão mine, in Brumadinho, Brazil, resulted in a human and environmental tragedy that demanded decisive and appropriate action to enhance the safety of tailings facilities across the globe. This motivated the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), ICMM and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) to convene the Global Tailings Review to develop an international standard for the safer management of tailings storage facilities.
The ICMM launched the standard in partnership with the UNEP and PRI on August 5, 2020.
Mining industry members have committed that all tailings facilities with “extreme” or “very high” potential consequences will be in conformance with the standard by August 2023, and all other facilities by August 2025.
To support this timeline, ICMM developed the protocols to help operators and independent third-parties assess the implementation of the standard’s requirements across tailings facilities. The 219 clear and concise criteria in the protocols map to the standard’s 77 requirements, enabling conformance against all applicable requirements to be assessed.
ICMM COO Aidan Davy says the standard established clear expectations around global transparency and disclosure, including requirements for independent oversight. “Effective assessment of conformance to the standard through the Conformance Protocols will help to demonstrate to all stakeholders that responsible practices are being applied across the tailings lifecycle.”
He adds that the guide provides a comprehensive resource that will help companies continually learn and improve, raising the bar to make all tailings facilities safer.
The ICMM’s Tailings Management Good Practice Guide aims to promote good governance and engineering practices that support continuous improvement in the management of new and existing tailings facilities and is aimed at strengthening the safety culture within companies.
It provides comprehensive guidance on tailings management, covering a range of technical and engineering elements, including improved engineering practices across the whole tailings lifecycle – from project conception and design to construction and operation, closure and post-closure.
The guide integrates stronger governance around four key areas: corporate policy, accountability and responsibility; operation, maintenance and surveillance activities; information management; and oversight and emergency preparedness.
The guide includes a performance-based, risk-informed approach advocated by Professor Norbert Morgenstern, a world leading expert in tailings management, who was actively engaged in its development. This approach centres on continuous monitoring to confirm that a tailings facility is performing as intended, which provides a rigorous technical basis for decision-making and proactive management.
Mining Association of Canada science and environmental management VP Charles Dumaresq, who also contributed to the development of the guide, says that, as global demand for metals and minerals continues to increase, and the transition to a low-carbon economy brings increased demand for critical minerals, the volume of tailings produced by mining will continue to increase.
He adds that every mine site in the world needs to prioritise the safe and responsible management of tailings, and it is imperative that both industry and regulators drive continual improvement in tailings management to achieve this goal.
Freeport-McMoRan tailings, crushed leach and water director and ICMM chairperson of the working group that developed the resources Tamara Johndrow says the protocols for the standard provide both operators and independent third-party assessors access to the same criteria to measure progress towards conformance against all applicable requirements and avoid misinterpretation of the standard.
“Collaboration between experts across ICMM’s membership allowed for the capture of practical experience from companies operating in diverse geographies, commodities and regulatory systems, helping to make these resources strong and powerful tools,” she says.