Major new ICMM report on tailings management

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has announced a new agreement that will bind its 23 member companies to further improve the management of mine tailings throughout their global operations.

ICMM, which drives sustainable development in the mining industry, announced that it would conduct a global tailings management review in December 2015, in the aftermath of the tailings dam failure at Samarco in Brazil that tragically resulted in the loss of 19 lives.

To conduct this work, ICMM commissioned a review by recognised tailings specialists supported by an expert panel and also drew on the technical expertise of ICMM’s member companies and associations. The review appointed Golder Associates to report on surface tailings management guidance across the ICMM membership.

The review acknowledges the conclusions of the Golder Report, which has just been published, and agrees that an increased emphasis on governance is needed to ensure that the extensive existing technical and management guidance is more effectively applied.

In response, ICMM has issued a new position statement that commits members to minimise the risk of catastrophic failures of tailings dams by adopting six key elements of management and governance.

The position statement has been unanimously endorsed by all CEOs of ICMM member companies.

Tom Butler, ICMM’s CEO said: “ICMM and its members are committed to drive safety and environmental improvements in the industry. After the tragic failure of the Samarco tailings dam, we had to determine how we could best help to minimise the risk of the recurrence of such a catastrophic event.

“We were determined to take action at the global level and all of our member companies have adopted this new binding agreement. We hope that non-member companies will also consider adopting this framework in order to help enhance the whole industry’s performance.”

Dirk van Zyl, a member of the expert panel that was constituted for the review, said: “I am delighted that as a result of the review, CEOs of the world’s 23 leading mining companies committed to a new ICMM framework on how to further enhance the safe management of tailings dams.

“The review did not cover how or why the Samarco tailings dam failed, but takes lessons from the tragic event as well as from other tailing dam failures. It finds that a higher level of governance and assurance is key to confirming existing safety standards are implemented consistently.”

John Wates, Senior Tailings Engineer at Golder Associates who co-authored the report, said: “The report called for the industry to publish a tailings framework that must be endorsed by the board, and ICMM and its member companies have agreed to this.”

Terry Eldridge, Senior Project Reviewer at Golder Associates, said: “I hope that this report will be widely read, not just by ICMM members, but by the mining industry as whole so we can continually improve the safety of the industry”.

The review report: ‘Tailings management practices and recommendations for improvement’ is available at: It was produced by Golder Associates, an independent employee-owned organisation with over 50 years of experience in the consulting, design and construction services.

Position statements are the most substantial expression of ICMM member company commitments to actions, as they are mandatory and binding on all members. The adoption of a position statement on this subject illustrates the critical importance that all ICMM members place on this issue. ICMM’s new Position Statement on Preventing Catastrophic Failure of Tailings Storage Facilities is available at: