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Independent mine tailings review to be chaired by Professor Oberle  

Published by , Assistant Editor
Global Mining Review,

Professor Bruno Oberle has agreed to chair an independent review of mine tailings storage facilities, the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM), the Principles for Responsible Investment and the United Nations Environment Programme announced yesterday as co-conveners of the review.

The review will establish an international standard for the safe management of tailings storage facilities that can be applied to all tailings dams where ever they are located and whoever operates them.  

Professor Oberle is Chair for Green Economy and Resource Governance and Academic Director of the International Risk Governance Center at L'Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, a panel member of the International Resource Panel and a member of the Leadership Council of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. He was previously the Swiss Secretary of State for the Environment and Director of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment.  

Professor Oberle will oversee every aspect of the review and prepare a report which is expected to be published by the end of the year.  

Set up in response to the Brumadinho tragedy in Brazil, the review will be informed by evidence and lessons from this disaster as well as earlier mine tailings dam failures.  

Professor Oberle said: “This is a demanding role and we have a responsibility to the people of Brumadinho to get this right. My objective is clear: I will oversee a comprehensive review of the current situation and draw up a new international standard for tailings storage facilities that draws on the best practice from around the globe.”


In addition to the appointment of a chair from outside the mining sector, the independence of the review will further be assured by the appointment of a multi-stakeholder advisory panel consisting of non-governmental organisations, international bodies and responsible investors.


The chair will also be able to draw on the experience of an expert panel of tailings and dam specialists drawn from academia and industry.


Naysán Sahba, Director of Communications at UNEP said: “I am delighted that Professor Oberle has agreed to chair the review. He brings exactly the right experience and qualities to ensure that the review is robust and will lead to a step change in the international standards on tailings dams.”


Tom Butler, CEO of ICMM said: “Professor Oberle clearly has the right credentials to lead this review. The new standard that the review agrees will be mandatory for ICMM members and adopted at all their operational assets globally. I hope that non-members will sign up to the standard too.”

Fiona Reynolds, CEO of the PRI, said: “Alongside our investor representatives - the Swedish Council of Ethics and the Church of England Pensions Board - the PRI is very pleased with the appointment of Professor Oberle to chair the independent mail tailings review. The Professor’s experience and expertise will be a tremendous asset in this role, and we hope to see robust investor engagement around an international standard for the safe management of tailings storage facilities in the near future.”


John Howchin of the Swedish Council of Ethics and investor representative of the Principles for Responsible Investment said: “We are pleased with the appointment of Professor Oberle and that he will give confidence in the independence of the review and setting the new international tailings storage standard."

Adam Matthews of the Church of England Pensions Board and investor representative of the PRI said: "This review is extremely important to those investors that have publicly called for a new international standard. Professor Oberle will bring independence and rigour to this process."

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