The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) released a revised edition of its internationally-recognised publication, A Guide to the Management of Tailings Facilities at the 2017 Tailings and Mine Waste Conference in Banff, Alberta, earlier this week. The third edition includes significant updates, which are informed by recommendations from leading experts in the field.
For more than two decades, MAC has played a leading role on tailings management. In 1998, MAC released the first edition of the Tailings Guide, which was one of the industry’s first and most comprehensive management guides on tailings. Tailings management is also a core focus of MAC’s sustainability standard, Towards Sustainable Mining® (TSM®), which was launched in 2004.
Canadian tailings management guidance is recognised as market leading. A 2016 report by Golder Associates, commissioned by the International Council on Mining and Metals following the tailings failure at the Samarco mine in Brazil, noted that the Canadian guidelines produced by MAC and the Canadian Dam Association, taken together, were the most comprehensive of the national frameworks examined, while also noting potential improvements.
Despite such praise for Canadian guidance, MAC proactively reviewed its tailings management components to ensure they continued to contain leading practices. Following the tailings incident at Mount Polley, MAC struck an independent task force to undertake an external review, which ultimately made 29 recommendations to strengthen MAC’s tailings management guidance and requirements under TSM — all of which are being systematically incorporated.
A parallel internal review, spearheaded by tailings experts within MAC’s membership, was also conducted. This identified further opportunities, including those identified in the 2016 Golder report, to strengthen MAC’s tailings management components.
Both reviews confirmed the strength of the existing Tailings Guide, but identified opportunities to further enhance the guidance, and incorporate proven and emerging best practices for tailings management.
According to MAC, the third edition of the Tailings Guide is another step in the continual improvement process for tailings management, moving towards the goal of minimising harm: zero catastrophic failures of tailings facilities, and no significant adverse effects on the environment and human health. It contains new technical components, including those critical to the physical and chemical stability of tailings facilities. It also strengthens key management components throughout the tailings facility’s life cycle, such as change management, critical controls for risk management, and performance evaluation.