The Global Action on Tailings is a GMPA initiative, engaging and connecting technical experts to advance discussions and solutions relating to tailings management, tailing reprocessing, repurposing and ultimately driving toward tailings elimination.
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 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.
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.
Following the catastrophic failure of a tailings dam at Brumadinho, Brazil in January 2019, the Global Action on Tailings (GAT) Initiative was established by the Global Mineral Professionals Alliance to address challenges concerning tailings disposal and storage.
An international Taskforce is collaborating 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 2021, the GAT has prioritized three areas of focus - Building trust through collaboration and engagement, workforce planning focused on current and emerging gaps in tailings expertise and enhancing access to tailings content across GMPA member associations.