2019 – Tailings Dam Guidelines: Adopting International Direction

David Brett

Recent tailings dam failures have led to worldwide alarm that we are still getting an average of two
significant tailings dam incidents a year. This is despite the efforts of various industry organisations aroundthe world to raise the standards of tailings dam management. Clearly, a significant number of mining dams are not re silient enough to ensure the required level of safety for sustainable mining operations in a modern world in which there is increasing concern for the environment. This paper updates ANCOLD with international developments in attempting to address shortcomings in the mining industry that is allowing these failures to continue to occur.

In Australia, ANCOLD have released an addendum to the 2012 ANCOLD Guidelines on Tailings Dams, Planning, Design, Construction, Operation and Closure, to coincide with the new ANCOLD Guidelines for Design of Dams and Appurtenant Structures for Earthquake. This addendum also addresses issues of governance of tailings dams and provides additional guidance on the serious issue of static-liquefaction, a critical factor in recent failures.

On the international scene, ICOLD is progressing a Tailings Dam Safety Bulletin that is hoped will set
minimum standards for Tailings Dams for all member countries. In addition, the International Council of Mining and Metallurgy (ICMM) similarly wants to establish an international standard. It is likely that these international bodies will cooperate to ensure a consistent set of guidelines and that countries will accept and implement these.

This paper updates the ANCOLD position regarding guidelines and describes the state of various
international guidelines following the June ICOLD meeting in Ottawa.

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