Australia ramps up tailings dam safety focus

Australia’s minerals industry has committed to the safe and responsible management of tailings storage facilities through the release of the Australian Mining Tailings Communique.

The announcement was made by the Minerals Council Australia (MCA), which developed the idea alongside its member companies after a workshop earlier this year.

The communique focusses on demonstrating global leadership and best practice in governance, information sharing and technical expertise in tailings storage management, with the MCA to develop a program of work reflecting these actions by the end of the year.

It comes in response to a series of tailings accidents which was epitomised by the Brumadinho dam disaster earlier this year.

“Tragic incidents around the world over the past decade reinforce the need for ongoing vigilance, review and change,” an MCA statement said.

“Australian companies are committed to playing a role in the global response to develop international guidelines and standards for tailings management by the International Council on Mining and Metals.”

While Australia’s current tailings management practices are highly regulated, the MCA emphasised the need for continual improvement.

This follows a request for global mining companies to reveals details of their tailing’s storage facilities (TSF) by the Church of England Pensions Board and the Swedish Council on Ethics for the AP funds.

Earlier this year, companies were given 45 business days to disclose a list of all tailing’s facilities, so investors could analyse the risk that the facilities represented.

BHP was one of many mining companies which took part, revealing that eight of its TSFs have ‘extreme’ consequences, meaning that failure could result in over 100 deaths alongside major damage to the environment, infrastructure and the economy.