TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) has committed to reviewing the information and recommendations of the Friday-released report examining the August 2014 tailings dam failure at the Mt Polley mine, in British Columbia, with a view to enhancing tailings dam safety.
The report, compiled by the British Columbia government-appointed independent panel, concluded that the cause of the tailings dam breach was a layer of clay underneath the dam that was not taken into account in the original design. The panel stated that the failure occurred notwithstanding effective regulatory oversight.
"The tailings dam failure at the Mt Polley mine was an unfortunate incident that has been taken seriously by the entire industry. While a necessary component of mining, tailings facilities create risks that need to be effectively managed. We believe that every effort must be taken to prevent failures and we support continual advancement in their design, operation and management,” MAC president and CEO Pierre Gratton said.
Immediately following the breach, while the cause was still unknown at the time, MAC proactively initiated a review of its tailings management programme. This included a review of the tailings management requirements of MAC's mandatory Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiative, as well as the association's three tailings management guides.
The guides were implemented by MAC members as a requirement under TSM, which was considered industry best practice around the world, a point acknowledged by the independent review panel. In consultation with some of the best professionals in this field, this work remained ongoing. MAC added that the organisation and its members, including technical experts in tailings management, would evaluate the panel's recommendations to see if there were opportunities to incorporate important findings from their work.
"MAC is honoured by the panel report's recognition of MAC's TSM initiative as 'best available practice' in corporate governance," note Gratton. "Nonetheless, best practice can always be improved and we will look at the panel's recommendations to determine how we might do that."
TSM was a mandatory programme for MAC members, and its requirements went beyond regulatory obligations. It was designed to improve industry's performance in key environmental and social areas, including tailings management, and involved third-party verification of reported results.
Both the Mining Association of British Columbia and the Quebec Mining Association had recently adopted TSM and were working with their members on implementation. A major component of TSM included commitments to ensure the safe operation and management of tailings.
One of the main drivers behind the development of TSM in the late 1990s was to ensure tailings dam safety through strong tailings management practices. Since TSM's launch in 2004, MAC members had made steady improvement in this area.
"A tailings failure is unacceptable. However, it is important to note that every day there are hundreds of mines safely operating tailings facilities in Canada. The Canadian mining industry is deeply committed to building on the efforts it has made in recent decades in developing a strong record in safely managing tailings,” Gratton advised.