Environmental organisation GRID-Arendal, with support from the UN Environment Program (UNEP), says it has launched the world’s first publicly accessible global database of mine tailings storage facilities.
The database, the Global Tailings Portal, was built by Norway-based GRID-Arendal as part of the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative, led by the Church of England Pensions Board and the Swedish National Pension Funds’ Council on Ethics, with support from the UNEP. The initiative is backed by funds with more than US$13 trillion under management, according to GRID-Arendal.
Professor Elaine Baker from the School of Geosciences is Director of the GRID-Arendal office at the University of Sydney. She said: “This portal could save lives. Tailing dams are getting bigger and bigger. Mining companies have found most of the highest-grade ores and are now mining lower-grade ones, which create more waste. With this information, the entire industry can work towards reducing dam failures in the future.”
The release of the Global Tailings Portal coincides with the one-year anniversary of the tailings dam collapse in Brumadinho, Brazil (pictured above – CREDIT:IDF/Flickr), which reportedly killed 270 people. After that event, a group of institutional investors led by the Church of England Pensions Board asked 726 of the world’s largest mining companies to disclose details about their tailings dams. Many of the companies complied, and the information they released has been incorporated into the database, GRID-Arendal said.
The database will allow users to view detailed information on more than 1,900 tailings dams, categorised by location, company, dam type, height, volume and risk, among other factors.
Kristina Thygesen, GRID-Arendal’s Program Leader for Geological Resources and a member of the team that worked on the portal, said: “Most of this information has never before been publicly available.”
When GRID-Arendal began in-depth research on mine tailings dams in 2016, very little data was accessible. In a 2017 report on tailings dams, co-published by GRID and the UN Environment Program, one of the key recommendations was to establish an accessible public-interest database of tailings storage facilities.
“This database brings a new level of transparency to the mining industry, which will benefit regulators, institutional investors, scientific researchers, local communities, the media and the industry itself,” Thygesen said.