Over the past 20 years there has been a series of significant tailings storage facility (TSF) failures but the devastating failure of Brazil’s Brumadinho TSF in January 2019, which took 270 people’s lives, was the tipping point for the mining industry.
Tailings are the by-products of mining and resource extraction and are often stored in TSF’s, which are highly engineered containment structures.
Just 2 days after the tragic event in Brazil, a group of investors co-led by the Church of England Pensions Board and the Swedish Council of Ethics of the AP Funds, announced the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative. This initiative brought to the fore two key interventions: the development of a new Global Tailings Standard and the evolution of a TSF disclosure data repository.
An industry response
On behalf of the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative, GRID-Arendal, a non-profit environmental communications centre based in Norway developed the Global Tailings Portal, bringing together the thousands of disclosures on individual tailings facilities. The TSF disclosure request asked that CEO’s and Board Chairs from 726 extractive companies publicly disclose tailings data to this portal and on their websites. Over 86% of the mining industry (by market capitalisation) responded to the disclosure request, including 45 of the top 50 mining companies. This process has brought a new level of transparency to the industry allowing communities, investors, regulators and the media unprecedented access to information about mine waste.
The more recent Global Standard on Tailings Management was launched on the 5th August 2020. The historic agreement includes six topic areas, 15 principles and 77 auditable requirements, which covers the entire TSF lifecycle – from site selection, design and construction, management and monitoring, through to closure and post-closure.
With an ambition of zero harm to people and the environment, the standard significantly raises the bar for the industry to achieve strong social, environmental and technical outcomes by elevating accountability to the highest organisational levels and adds new requirements for independent oversight.
Leveraging technology to meet the standard
These recent initiatives have encouraged mining companies to respond quickly to public demand for more transparency which has highlighted the need for a software solution which can improve tailings data management, reporting, monitoring, compliance and governance.
Wesfarmers owned and Perth-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, Decipher, has created a guide and extended its successful TSF cloud platform to provide a solution which simplifies the process of TSF data disclosure as well as helping companies align with the new global tailings standard.
Decipher CEO, Anthony Walker, said the resources industry is actively seeking easily implemented, cost effective and globally accessible solutions.
“The early adoption from Tier 1 miners and general interest has been phenomenal indicating that there is a real need for a TSF data dis-closure solution; it excites us that our technology platform can be leveraged to support better management and monitoring of tailings storage facilities.”
Meeting tailings data management and disclosure requests
Topic Area VI of the standard requires operators to support public disclosure of information about tailings facilities, and participate in global initiatives to create standardised, independent, industry-wide and publicly accessible information about facilities. For example, the recent Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative called upon 727 extractive mining companies to make public disclosures about their TSFs to form an independent global database – the Global Tailings Portal, developed by GRID-Arendal.
Due to manual processes, and often disparate and siloed atasets, mining operators have estimated that it took them approximately 6 weeks per site to collate their tailings data. With many operators having well over 50 sites, this process is challenging and surfaced many inefficiencies.
After hearing these frustrations from the industry, Decipher designed a tailings database solution to help companies easily capture, manage and disclose tailings data, enabling them to meet data provision requests from industry groups such as the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative.
The company has also been working closely with GRID-Arendal to create an API to facilitate automatic update of tailings data within the Decipher platform directly to the Global Tailings Portal. It believes this will significantly increase efficiency and provide a massive time savings for mining operators who choose to dis-close regularly.
Topic Area III of the standard aims to lift the performance bar for designing, constructing, operating, maintaining, monitoring, and closing facilities.
Recognising that tailings facilities are dynamic engineered structures, this topic area requires the ongoing use of an updated knowledge base, consideration of alternative tailings technologies, and a comprehensive monitoring system.
Decipher’s Tailings Storage Facilities solution is used by environmental, tailings, geotechnical and management teams globally to help improve monitoring, compliance, reporting, operational visibility and safety.
The platform brings together data from laboratories, IoT devices, LiDAR, CCTV, drones, inspections and remotely sensed plat-forms to serve users with up-to-date information to provide key data and insights, enabling teams to effectively monitor, govern and operate their TSFs.
Armed with Decipher’s Tailings Database solution, customers can:
- Comply and meet requests for data provision from industry groups such as COE, ICMM, UNEP, PRI, Global Tailings Review and more, with fields embedded for simple reporting and tracking.
- Store an endless variety of tailings data in one location which is otherwise managed by a number of teams in disparate systems.
- Operate with increased confidence knowing required data is being collected and monitored.
- Easily visualise their operational TSF data on the map.
- Cluster data into key areas such as safety, risk, compliance, construction, design, roles and responsibilities.
- Assign actions and tasks for data collection with a register and audit trail of all actions and respective statuses to monitor progress, and reminder and escalation notifications.
- View dam data across multiple sites in a single screen with the ability to easily export for reporting.
- Facilitate automatic updates to databases and portals based on integration capabilities with third party systems or public portals.
- View spatial visualisation to display tailings dams in proximity to surrounding environment and communities.
- Better align with standard such as the Global Tailings management.
- Access custom reports.
Read the article online at: https://www.globalminingreview.com/environment-sustainability/22092020/decipher-release-global-standard-on-tailings-management-guide/