New mining waste dam rules should not be retroactive, says review chief (Reuters U.S. – December 6, 2019)

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – New global standards for mining waste dams should take into account the difficulties of making existing dams compliant, the chair of an independent panel of experts crafting the new rules said on Friday.

Industry groups object to a standard that would apply not only to the design of new dams, but also require existing dams to be modified – a retro-fitting process they claim may be technically impossible, and at the very least expensive and time-consuming.

The world’s largest mining trade group – the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) – voiced concerns last month about the draft standards, especially how the rules could apply equally to new and existing facilities.

“We have to differentiate what we are requiring [for new and existing dams],” Bruno Oberle, the chair of the Global Tailings Review, told Reuters on Friday. “It is something that is not easy to phrase without making two completely different standards.”

The review was launched after a tailings dam owned by Vale collapsed in Brazil in January, killing hundreds and triggering calls for greater scrutiny of the dams used to store tonnes of muddy waste produced by the mining process.

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