5 Things You Need to Know About the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management

  • May 12, 2021

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5 Things You Need to Know About the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management

Tailings structures represent enormous liability for mining operations, evidenced by the destruction and tragedy that lies in the wake of tailings dam failures.  Despite the best efforts of operators, regulators, and industry experts, major tailings failures happen too frequently.  To combat this pattern of repeated failuresa review was undertaken by a co-convened panel including the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) to develop an international standard for tailings management aimed at preventing catastrophic failure. 

Here is what you need to know about the resulting Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM). 

1) The GISTM iWritten for Operators 

It includes an auditable list of requirements for tailings management. The goal of this list was to incite an industry-wide move towards safe tailings management by providing specified measures to prevent catastrophic failure of tailings facilities, and to implement best practices for the life of asset – from planning through to closure and post-closure. 

2) Consultation and Transparency is Critical 

Ongoing consultation with the public and relevant stakeholders, from planning through to closure and post-closure, is an important part of the GISTM. Meaningful engagement with affected parties is part of the human rights due diligence process for tailings facilities. Continued consultation and transparency improve perception of mining activities and shows that there is “nothing to hide”.  

Okane’s experienced facilitators and study directors can guide you and your stakeholder teams through the steps required to develop and implement integrated closure plans and associated closure study interdependency schedules. Mapping the closure vision to an integrated execution plan allows our clients to realize benefits and risk reduction associated with progressive reclamation throughout the operating Life of Mine.  

3) Integrated Knowledge Increases Safety 

Having an integrated knowledge base, developed across multiple disciplines, contributes vastly to safe tailings management. This knowledge base is intended to extend to the social, environmental, and local economic impact of facilities, in addition to the design criteria used to make the facility safe.  

Okane uses digital models to develop an integrated knowledge base for use as a single ‘source of truth’ for tailings facilities, where all personnel can come to the table and make informed decisions regardless of their technical background.   

4) Improvement Stems from a Learning Culture 

An organizational culture supportive of learning, communication, and early problem recognition is an important part of the GISTM. Fostering a culture that is accepting of experience-based knowledge from personnel on-site allows for integration of this hands-on knowledge into operations, planning, and closure. When personnel at every level of an organization feel that their contribution to the project is important and heard, they are willing to speak up and turn casual observations into real improvement. 

5) Integrated Closure Planning is Key  

The GISTM asks for operators to plan and design facilities to minimize risk for all phases of the project lifecycle. Integrated closure planning includes demonstrating the ability to upgrade tailings storage facilities to facilitate a higher consequence classification at a later date to address changing conditions that are encountered as sites move through their lifecycle. Integrating closure plans is a tenet of the GISTM, where elements of closure designs are implemented during construction and operations, and progressive closure and reclamation proceeds as applicable.   

Okane’s Approach 

Okane is a champion of integrated mine closure, with a team of multi-disciplinary engineers, scientists, and mine planners who fully understand closure requirements. Our team takes a comprehensive approach to tailings storage facility closure design and management and works with our Clients to effectively implement the GISTM in their organizations.  


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