Effective tailings management is rightly being prioritized more than ever to ensure that regulators, communities surrounding mine sites, stakeholders, investors and the general public can have confidence in how mining operations are being run.
For over 20 years the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) has led the way in responsible tailings management, a significant focus of the association's work, starting with its publication of A Guide to the Management of Tailings Facilities (the Tailings Guide) in 1998. The Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) program, launched in 2004, and specifically the Tailings Management Protocol, delivers world leading practice on responsible tailings management by providing a rigorous and well-established set of standards for credible performance measurement and reporting.
In efforts to ensure continued best practices and world leading tailings management expertise, MAC is pleased to announce that updates have been made to the Tailings Guide to improve alignment with requirements of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (the Standard), published last year. These updates, the first step in a process of further strengthening TSM requirements and guidance for tailings management, are based on a detailed comparison of the equivalency of TSM requirements to those of the Standard.
TSM is a globally recognized sustainability program that supports mining companies in managing key environmental and social risks. TSM was the first mining sustainability standard in the world to require site-level assessments and is mandatory for all companies that are members of implementing associations. Through TSM, eight critical aspects of social and environmental performance are evaluated, independently validated, and publicly reported against 30 distinct performance indicators. TSM provides an established system for credible performance measurement and reporting, including rigorous standards to help ensure that tailings facilities are being responsibly managed.
The publication of the Standard last year provided the opportunity to review TSM's requirements, with a view to incorporating aspects of it that would further enhance the safe management of tailings facilities around the world. There is broad alignment between TSM and the Standard in most critical aspects and, in many respects, TSM is more detailed and rigorous than the Standard and is a surer guarantee of the safe management of tailings facilities, see comparative table here.
To further align with the Standard, MAC is also expanding the application of the TSM Tailings Management Protocol to closed and inactive tailings facilities. With these changes, TSM will meet or exceed most of the requirements in the Standard and will continue to:
- Provide more detailed and rigorous performance measurement expectations. For example, the Standard has three high-level requirements related to developing and implementing an operation, maintenance and surveillance (OMS) manual for tailings facilities, whereas TSM identifies more than 120 items that must be addressed to be in conformance with the TSM requirement to develop and implement an OMS manual.
- Take a more comprehensive approach to identifying and addressing human and community rights and benefits.
- Have an established and independent verification process with almost two decades of experience measuring, assuring and publicly reporting site level performance.
TSM does not fully address elements of the Standard related to the planning, design, and construction of new tailings facilities. In addition to guidance in the Tailings Guide, MAC members also rely upon the internationally recognized and respected Canadian Dam Association safety guidelines and tailings dam bulletins.
Other jurisdictions are taking note of TSM's effectiveness, particularly given its strong standards in tailings management and the way it is enhancing business and consumer confidence in the way companies mine. Since its inception, nine national mining associations on six continents have adopted TSM to improve performance in their domestic mining sectors and it is encouraging to see interest in sustainable mining standards growing at an increasingly rapid pace. TSM is currently being implemented in Finland, Norway, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Botswana, the Philippines, and most recently, Australia, with more mining associations expected to sign on this year. With the growth and expansion of TSM around the world, MAC is proud to have developed a robust system for ensuring the promotion and implementation of best practices in tailings management the world over.