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Push for smaller mining firms to follow suit on tailings safety standards

24th January 2024

By: Mariaan Webb

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

     

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As the mining industry commemorates the fifth anniversary of the Brumadinho tailings disaster, in Brazil, the Church of England Pensions Board has highlighted the significant progress in the sector’s commitment to global standards for tailings management. However, while larger companies have taken noteworthy steps, the spotlight is now on smaller firms to embrace these crucial measures.

The disaster in 2019 resulted in the loss of 272 lives and prompted a global initiative to address the risks posed by similar incidents.

The Global Roundtable of the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative, convened on Wednesday, provided insights into international efforts and updates on safety standards adoption within the industry.

Notably, 77 major publicly listed mining companies, encompassing more than half of the market capitalisation of listed mining firms, have pledged to implement the tailings safety standard crafted by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), the United Nations Environment Programme, and the Principles for Responsible Investment.

This commitment extends to 24 ICMM member companies, which are actively implementing or committed to adopting either the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management or the Mining Association of Canada Towards Sustainable Mining Standard.

“This is a significant step by many companies to implement what is an exacting best practice standard. It means this standard is now the norm for the market,” said Adam Matthews, chairperson of the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative and chief responsible investment officer for the Church of England Pensions Board.

In a move towards transparency and accountability, the Church of England Pensions Board will publish the names of 126 smaller mining companies that have yet to confirm their commitment to the Global Industry Standard. This serves as a call to action for these companies to align with industry-wide efforts to enhance tailings safety.

Matthews emphasised that companies not committing to the standard are heightening their risk profile in investors’ portfolio and undermining collective efforts to address the systemic issue of tailings waste.

Global ambassador for the Global Tailings Management Institute John Howchin stressed that the tailings safety standard should be implemented by all mining companies, irrespective of their size.

“The key priority of investors is to ensure all companies with tailings dams commit to implement the standard,” he said.

The initiative also highlights the progress made in establishing the independent Global Institute for Tailings Management and the ongoing efforts to create a single global public registry of all tailings facilities, which is set to launch in September. The registry currently includes information on over 14 000 facilities across 77 countries, with expectations of thousands more as regulators continue to share records.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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