The mining industry is still “dragging its heels” on the step-change measures required to prevent catastrophic tailings failures, such as the Brumadinho tailings dam collapse in Brazil that killed 270 people, says Responsible Mining Foundation (RMF).
In the newly released 'Responsible Mining Index 2020', RMF reveals that while investor-led action, triggered by the disaster in Brazil, has resulted in improved transparency on companies’ tailings storage facilities (TSFs), the "vast majority" of companies are still unable to demonstrate that they are reviewing how effectively they are managing TSF-related risks and taking responsive actions where needed.
“Critically, very few mine sites show evidence of having informed local communities about what to do in the event of a tailings-related emergency,” RMF says.
The foundation states that while it is good that a new global standard on tailings management is being finalised, the standard has to be strengthened to become a real change-changer for tailings safety. It suggests that the standard set out clear requirements on elements including public disclosure around TSF management at individual mine sites and safety for all stakeholders, engagement with local stakeholders in the design and testing of emergency preparedness plans, strong mitigation measures to address the risks posed by existing TSFs and broader accountability for tailings safety across senior management and boards of directors.
RMF also calls for the standard to ban lake, riverine and marine disposals of tailings.
An eight-person panel backed by the International Council on Mining and Metals, the UN Environment Programme and the Principles for Responsible Investment released draft standards for tailings dams in November 2019. The publication of the final standard has been delayed from the June 2020 quarter, owing to constraints posed by the coronavirus pandemic.