Investors launch $19 trillion global tailings database

Norway-based GRID-Arendal has released the world’s first publicly accessible database of mine tailings storage facilities, backed by more than $US13 trillion ($19 trillion) of funds under management.

The database, called the Global Tailings Portal, was rolled out at Westminster Abbey in London last week.

It coincided with the one-year anniversary of the tailings dam collapse in Brumadinho, Brazil, which killed 270 people.

A group of institutional investors led by the Church of England Pensions Board asked 726 of the world’s largest mining companies to disclose details about their tailings dams.

Many of the companies complied, and the information they released has been incorporated into the database.

The database has received the support of the UN Environment Program, and was co-led by the Swedish National Pension Funds’ Council on Ethics.

“This portal could save lives,” GRID-Arendal director and University of Sydney professor from the School of Geosciences, Elaine Baker said.

“Tailing dams are getting bigger and bigger. Mining companies have found most of the highest-grade ores and are now mining lower-grade ones, which create more waste.

“With this information, the entire industry can work towards reducing dam failures in the future.”

There has been no central database detailing the location and quantity of the mining industry’s liquid and solid waste until now.

The database will allow users to view detailed information on more than 1900 tailings dams, categorised by location, company, dam type, height, volume and risk, among other factors.

“This database brings a new level of transparency to the mining industry, which will benefit regulators, institutional investors, scientific researchers, local communities, the media and the industry itself,” GRID-Arendal’s program leader for geological resources Kristina Thygesen concluded.