Cleaning up tailings standards: Why this time really is different – by Alisha Hiyate (Canadian Mining Journal – January 6, 2021)

A sustained effort needed to address tailings risks isn’t dissipating. Jan. 25 will mark two years since the Brumadinho tailings disaster in Brazil.

The tailings dam failure released 12 million cubic metres of tailings, killing 259, devastating the nearby town of Brumadinho, and polluting the Paraopeba River.

Incredibly, they’re still looking to recover the bodies of 11 presumed victims. (The search and rescue effort, interrupted by the pandemic in March 2020, resumed in August.)

The tragedy has prompted what promise to be profound, deep and lasting changes to tailings management in a way that previous high-profile failures – Mount Polley in 2014 and Fundao in 2015 – did not.

Although the other disasters did prompt industry responses, they were more regional (in the first instance) or in the second case, resulted in a high-level governance framework that lacked specific best practice details (a December 2016 position statement by the International Council on Mining and Metals [ICMM]).

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