Global Tailings Review

The catastrophic failure of a tailings storage facility at Vale’s Corrego do Feijão mine in Brumadinho, Brazil, on 25 January 2019 is a human and environmental tragedy. When the dam collapsed, shortly after noon, 11.7 million cubic meters of mining waste surged through the mine site towards the local town and countryside below, resulting in over five miles of destruction. As of 5 August 2020, 259 people have been confirmed dead, and 11 remain missing. This is a stark reminder that, while the mining and metals industry has come a long way in improving how it operates, there’s still much more that can be done to safeguard lives, improve performance and demonstrate transparency.

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) share a commitment to the adoption of global best practices on tailings storage facilities. They have co-convened this global tailings review to establish an international standard. This review is being led by Dr Bruno Oberle.

Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management

On 5 August 2020, Dr Bruno Oberle, alongside ICMM, UNEP and PRI launched the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management. The Standard was developed by a multi-disciplinary Expert panel, with input from a multi-stakeholder Advisory Group. The review involved extensive public consultation with affected communities, government representatives, investors, multilateral organisations and mining industry stakeholders and is informed by existing best practice and findings from past tailings facility failures.

The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management strives to achieve the ultimate goal of zero harm to people and the environment with zero tolerance for human fatality. Underpinned by an integrated approach to tailings management, the Standard aims to prevent catastrophic failure and enhance the safety of mine tailings facilities across the globe. It embodies a step-change in terms of transparency, accountability and safeguarding the rights of project affected people.

Comprising six Topic areas, 15 Principles and 77 auditable Requirements, the Standard will ultimately be supported by implementation protocols that will provide detailed guidance for certification, or assurance as applicable, and for equivalence with other standards.

The Global Tailings Review is an initiative co-convened by the International Council on Mining and Metals, United Nations Environment Programme and the Principles for Responsible Investment.