The industry response to the Brumadinho dam disaster, including the Global Tailings Standard, will hopefully prevent such tragic events in the future. However, it is important to examine how a catastrophe of this scale, at a facility owned by one of the five biggest mining companies in the world, could reoccur after a similar failure — Samarco, in 2015.
Doug Morrison, CEO of the Centre of Excellence for Mining Innovation (CEMI), said the industry must recognize that the increasing delay in getting approval for mining projects is almost all related to environmental impact.
Moreover, the failings at Brumadinho and Samarco were the result of a flawed approach to tailings management, Morrision said in an interview with the Global Business Reports:
GBR: What led CEMI to consider a new approach to the issue of tailings management?
Morrison: The industry has to recognize that the increasing delay in getting approval for mining projects is almost all related to environmental impact. This is all the general public really cares about. If you have failures in the 21st century that kill nearly 300 people, that is not a perception issue.
These facilities at Brumadinho and Samarco had been out of production for many years, and nothing about the nature of these tailings ponds was going to change by simply leaving them there. If you rely on human beings to execute perpetual care and maintenance for decades, if not centuries, eventually mistakes will be made.