Global Action on Tailings

From management to elimination

The Global Action on Tailings is a GMPA initiative, 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 meter capacity. 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.   

An international GAT Taskforce of experts is working together 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, each GMPA member organization has established specialist tailings committees providing guidance on conferences, online technical education, publications, as well as strategic input into industry reviews and consultations.  

For further information on the GAT Initiative please contact:   

Resources   

Standards and Codes

Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management - Launched August 2020, establishes the first global standard on tailings management that can be applied to existing and future tailings facilities.

Databases

Global Tailings Portal - A searchable database with information on more than 1,800 mine tailings dams. Users can sort data about tailings dams by location, company, dam type, height, volume, and risk, among other factors.

Conferences and Professional Development  

Jul 21 - AusIMM Mine Waste and Tailings Conference 2021 - Covering all aspects of life cycle waste rock and tailings management from site selection and design to post-closure care.

Nov 21 - SAIMM Global Tailings Standards and Opportunities for the Mine of the Future 

Courses

Feb 21 - AusIMM Professional Certificate in Tailings Management - Gain competency in the geotechnical, geochemical, governance, closure, and socio-economic considerations of tailings management.