Global Action on Tailings

From management to elimination

The Global Action on Tailings is an initiative of the GMPA, to engage and connect technical experts to advance discussions and solutions relating to tailings management, tailing reprocessing, repurposing and ultimately driving toward tailings elimination.

Background

With declining grades, the rate of waste generation, including tailings has steadily increased. This increased volume of waste has resulted in a significant growth in the size of tailings impoundment structures. At the same time over the past few decades, the rate of serious tailings dam failures has risen. Half (33 of 67) of serious tailings dam failures in the last 70 years occurred in the 20 years between 1990 and 2009, and larger and more serious failures are projected (Bowker and Chambers, 2015).

The increasing rate of tailings dam failures is directly related to the increasing number of tailings impoundment areas larger than 5 million cubic metercapacity. Losses of human life, as well economic and ecological impacts, either permanent or non-recoverable, are often immense. The average cost of these catastrophic tailings dam failures is $543 million. Mining companies cannot afford, nor financially secure the costs of catastrophic failures. In addition, the reputational impact of a dam failure is devastating.

To compound this, climate change and ageing mines have made the problem more pressing, with precipitation levels increasing in many parts of the world, and older dams with designed with out-dated specifications. Today, tailings management is the most pressing issue facing our sector.

Approach

Collectively the GPMA membership has tens of thousands of technical experts around the world with experience in all aspects of mine waste and tailings - the geology, mineralogy, geotechnical, mining, processing, tailings dewatering, deposition, water management, reprocessing, and remediation.    

Rather than simply examining tailings from a disposal perspective, the GMPA Global Action on Tailings initiative, is actively engaging and connecting experts to build awareness and knowledge of tailings management through information on design, operation, risk management and improvement opportunities, and education and professional development activities to enhance competencies in tailings management.  

In addition to establishing a GMPA Global Action on Tailings Taskforce, each member organization has formed Tailings Teams to provide guidance on conferences, online technical education, publications, as well as to have strategic input into industry reviews and consultations.  

First steps of the Initiative involve data collection, dissemination of best practices, guidelines, and research papers.