China tightens rules on tailings dam safety – by Min Zhang and Tom Daly (Reuters U.S. – December 19, 2019)

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has tightened rules covering the safety management of tailings dams, including banning them in some areas, authorities said on Thursday, as the country aims to prevent risks after a fatal disaster in Brazil in January.

Downstream areas with a high density of people – such as residential neighborhoods, industrial premises or markets – or with production and living facilities within one kilometer, will be off limits for new, rebuilt or expanded tailing dams, the Ministry of Emergency Management said in a statement on its website.

Tailings dams are the most common waste disposal methods for mining firms, whether they are extracting iron ore, copper or gold. They can tower dozens of meters high and stretch for several kilometers.

The ministry said it began work on revising the guidelines in February this year, soliciting opinions from local regulators, industry associations and companies to set stricter thresholds for new or expanded tailings dams.

Other new or expansion projects with a dam height of over 200 meters are prohibited, while tailings dams that have been in service for less than five years may not be expanded or rebuilt, according to the ministry.

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