This month, the first global standard to prevent mining catastrophes was released, following the tragic collapse of a tailings dam in Brazil last year which killed 270 people.
People living near or downstream from a mine deserve to know they’ll be safe. While the standard requires mining operators to act transparently, it’s being rolled out without independent oversight. And it’s not clear how communities – many of them vulnerable – will be supported to understand mining projects and their implications.
The standard comes at a time when public visibility of the mining industry is at a low. The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted movement globally, making it harder for outside experts, journalists, investors and regulators to monitor what’s happening on the ground.
Tailings dams are among the largest human-made structures on the planet. Their collapse has become more frequent in recent years, and Australia is not immune. Independent oversight is necessary to hold mining companies to account.
Tailings are the residues left over from mining and minerals processing – a combination of finely ground rock, chemicals and water. They are commonly stored in the mining lease area, in huge engineered structures.