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Mining houses open up their tailings dam strategies

In January this year, a tailings dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in Brazil failed, releasing a mudflow that killed at least 237 people. Given the magnitude of the disaster, investors and communities demanded that extractive companies to increase their disclosure on their tailings storage facilities (TSFs).
An aerial view of the Brumadinho dam collapse in Brazil. Photo by HO / Minas Gerais Fire Department
As a result, Anglo American has published on its website the details of its 91 managed and an additional 62 TSFs at non-managed joint venture operations in which it has an interest.

Of the 91 facilities, 40 are in active use, 33 are inactive or in care and maintenance, and 18 are closed or rehabilitated. In terms of the method of tailings storage, 39 use wet deposition while 52 use either dry-stacked or in-pit deposition.

The mining house completely revised and updated its technical standard for TSF safety management in early 2014. The standard is updated as appropriate and goes beyond regulatory and other industry requirements in all host jurisdictions. This mandatory global standard mitigates the long-recognised principal risk that TSFs pose, sets minimum requirements for design criteria, monitoring, inspection and surveillance, and was peer-reviewed by international specialists.

“As an industry, we have a clear ethical and moral imperative to do everything possible to ensure that tailings storage facilities are managed to the highest standards of safety as we work together, as an industry, to build greater levels of trust with all our stakeholders,” says Mark Cutifani, chief executive of Anglo American.

“Looking to the future, we are working on a number of technologies that we expect to significantly reduce the volume of waste material we produce through our activities, and our ability to remove water from that material and store it in drier form – improving its stability and further reducing associated risks. A number of these technologies also offer major energy and fresh water usage reductions for every ounce or tonne of metal or mineral we produce.”

In addition to the requested defined information, Anglo American has also published its full Group Technical Standard in respect of Mineral Residue Facilities and Water Management Structures.

Glencore's response

“Appropriately managing the safety of our TSFs is part of our commitment to act as a responsible operator and to minimise our direct and indirect impacts on the environment,” says Ivan Glasenberg, chief executive officer of Glenocore, at the launch of the company’s microsite that provides detailed information on its tailings storage facilities (TSFs).

Glencore utilises a group-wide approach to evaluating exposure to and the controls associated with all identified catastrophic hazards. This programme uses third party expertise to ensure that leading practice is incorporated into its approach. TSFs have been part of Glencore's catastrophic hazard evaluation programme for a number of years and have drawn on external expertise applying leading standards from CDA (Canadian Dam Association), ICOLD (International Commission on Large Dams) and ANCOLD (Australian National Committee on Large Dams).

Group-wide dam integrity and safety assurance programme involves an assessment against over 100 dam safety and leading practice criteria. As part of our approach, we utilise the services of Klohn Crippen Berger, one of the world's leading experts on TSF assurance, to independently audit and assess the integrity and safety of our TSFs.

In addition, assets are required to conduct regular dam safety inspections, as well as undertaking independent dam safety audits.
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