HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (Reuters) – After last month’s deadly tailings dam disaster at a Vale SA facility in Brazil, Freeport-McMoRan Inc Chief Executive Richard Adkerson sent a memo to his 29,000 employees telling them to immediately report any safety concerns about the scores of dams his company operates.
The disaster, which killed more than 300, has sparked a push to set global standards for the construction and inspection of tailings dams, which store the muddy detritus of the mining process, as well as emergency preparations. The move reflects a radical departure from the way the facilities have operated for more than a century.
Freeport, the world’s largest publicly traded copper producer, spends several hundred millions of dollars per year on tailings dams upkeep and has not had a tailings dam failure since it acquired Phelps Dodge in 2007. Adkerson’s directive underscored his desire not to blemish that record.
“I told my people, ‘If you know of a problem, don’t try to solve it yourself,’” Adkerson told Reuters. “Report it.”
On Tuesday, Adkerson and 26 other CEOs, including leaders from BHP Group Ltd, Vale SA and Glencore Plc, agreed as their first step since the Vale disaster to form a panel that will set international design and maintenance standards for dams and study ways to reduce the volume of water stored behind the dams in waste rock.