Doug Morrison is the president-CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI) in Sudbury.
The mining industry’s ingrained culture of safety needs similar approach in dealing with mine waste solutions
In August, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) launched what it calls its new ‘Global Industry Standard on Mine Tailings,’ some 18 months after almost 300 people were killed by the catastrophic failure of a Vale iron ore tailings dam at Brumadinho in Brazil.
It is unlikely to be successful. The ICMM report is designed to improve operational control of the existing mine tailings management process and so reduce the consequences of another catastrophic failure.
Its members can take up to five years to implement the ‘Standard’ voluntarily, and the ICMM can only encourage non-member mines to adopt it.
Critics have already pointed out that the new provisions would not prevent the failure at Brumadinho happening again, or prevent any other mine tailings containment failures, such as fugitive dust, that routinely contaminates the land and water immediately adjacent to many mines.
The ICMM’s 27 members, including most of the largest mining corporations in the world, and investor groups such as the Swedish AP Funds and the Church of England Investment Funds that were party to the creation of the report, may have achieved what they wanted. But they failed completely to meet the challenge of the day.