Tailings are fine-grained solids left after minerals have been extracted from mined ore and often discarded in large piles or deposited in a tailings storage facility or dam. Storage failure can result in slumps and landslides, inhalable dust, polluted water, dam collapse and leaks — causing significant health and safety risks to workers, surrounding communities, wildlife and the environment.
Australia’s minerals industry has issued a communique outlining its plans to improve tailings management and strengthen the safety of workers and local communities. It comes after several tragic incidents in the last decade — including one from earlier this year — sparked questions about tailings management practices from governments, investors and the community, and reinforced the need for ongoing vigilance, review and change.
While Australia’s tailing management practices are highly regulated and touted by the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) as being “at the forefront of global best practices”, the industry intends to assess existing tailings management systems and approaches — highlighting best practice and identifying areas for improvement, according to the communique. It will also offer expertise to help global initiatives, such as the International Council on Mining and Metals’ plans to establish international standards and guidelines for tailings management, achieve the “best possible systems, culture and technology, while remaining vigilant and ready to respond quickly and effectively”, the communique said.
The MCA is expected to deliver a program reflecting the industry’s actions plan by the end of the year.
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