An international standard for tailings facilities is to be developed, based on a review of current global best practices in the mining industry, and beyond, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has announced. 

The organization said its governing Council of 27 member CEOs will establish an independent panel of experts to develop the standard for its member companies. The news comes in the wake of a devastating failure of a tailings dam in Brazil in late January.

The standard is expected to create a step change for the industry in the safety and security of these facilities, said ICMM. The details of the standard will be defined through the review process but are expected to include:

  • A global and transparent consequence-based tailings facility classification system with appropriate requirements for each level of classification.
  • A system for credible, independent reviews of tailings facilities.
  • Requirements for emergency planning and preparedness.

Tom Butler ICMM’s Chief Executive Officer said: “ICMM CEOs have committed to creating a step change for the industry in the safety of tailings facilities by developing a recognised international standard for member companies. The standard will be based on best practices to ensure that tailings facility risks are managed appropriately, consistently, and transparently. While the standard would become a member commitment, ICMM will encourage others to join us in advocating for it to be adopted more broadly.”

ICMM will engage with representatives from civil society, communities, industry, investors, and multilateral organisations, to determine the detailed scope of the review. The review will be carried out by a team of experts from diverse disciplines, led by an independent chair and is expected to be complete by the end of 2019.

Also, ICMM’s CEOs agreed to initiate work to: (i) define technical guidance for the safe design, construction, operation, and closure of tailings facilities, by drawing upon existing technical best practice; (ii) develop capacity and a database to facilitate learning and knowledge sharing across the industry; and (iii) consider ways to leverage member resources to enhance and optimise the industry’s existing research and training initiatives.