UN report motivated by cost of tailings dam disasters

Inadequate commitment to safe storage, plus poor management caused most failures

A new report from the United Nations Environment Programme cites prevention of tailings dam disasters as a challenging goal made more difficult by the cyclical, competitive and international nature of the mining industry, but calls for making safety the number one priority.

“Failure to implement change, coupled with the reality of declining ore grades and consequent increasing waste volumes, will inevitably lead to more catastrophic failures with more deaths, human suffering and environmental destruction,” the authors warn.

The report questions whether it is wise to continue storing increasingly larger volumes of mine tailings, believing that they are safely locked away. And the report asks whether society should demand more sustainable practices in the design and planning of tailings management, including zero, or minimal mine waste and turning mine waste into secondary resources.

The report recommends making environmental and human safety a priority in management actions and on-the-ground operations, and establishing a UN environment stakeholder forum to facilitate international strengthening of tailing dam regulation.

The report calls on regulators, industry and communities to adopt a shared zero-failure objective to tailings storage facilities where “safety attributes should be evaluated separately from economic considerations, and cost should not be the determining factor.”

It also recommends establishing a UN Environment stakeholder forum to facilitate international strengthening of tailing dam regulation.

Associated actions recommended include facilitating international cooperation on mining regulation and safe storage of mine tailings through a knowledge hub, and expanding mining regulations, including tailings storage, independent monitoring and enforcement of financial and criminal sanctions for non-compliance. The authors also urge establishment of a global financial assurance system for mine sites to ensure rehabilitation, tailings management and monitoring, plus funding a global insurance pool to address unmet liabilities from major tailings dam failures on local communities.

Current tailing dam failures create crises for many stakeholders, who are often unprotected and lack the resources or capacity to move on from or overcome the impact of such disasters, the report said. A financial assurance system would provide resources to address such failures with adequate funds for site clean-up and remediation.

Read the entire report online http://www.grida.no/publications/383?utm_source=MiningWatch+Canada&utm_campaign=a28f5bb97a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_11_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_49649c74b8-a28f5bb97a-103738733