2021 – The Critical Link between Risk Assessments and Critical Controls

Ryan Singh, Jiri Herza, James Thorp, Michael Ashley

Performance-based risk-informed decision making is an underlying principle of the Global Industry
Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM). While owners make significant efforts to align with this
principle, commonly used risk assessment and management practices in the mining industry have largely been based on the HSE principles, which consider more frequent, lower consequence incidents.

As a result, the existing risk assessment frameworks do not provide the owners with a comprehensive understanding of the risk profiles of their tailings storage facilities (TSFs). Without the understanding of a facility’s risk profile, the owners cannot appreciate how changes to their facility, processes and operational activities may impact the risk profile. A large step-change in thinking is therefore required in risk assessment practices for the owner to align their TSF management with GISTM requirements.

Beyond risk assessments, the mining industry has other valuable concepts to manage the safety of their tailings management practices, such as Critical Controls, however, commonly used risk assessment and management practices do not incorporate these concepts.

This paper explores commonly used risk assessment practices and the concepts of Critical Controls. It proposes how these concepts can be linked, with Critical Controls being embedded in the risk assessment process. The outcomes of linking these concepts result in an estimation of the effectiveness of the Critical Controls and how they can be improved to demonstrably reduce the risk presented by a TSF. A case study has been included to demonstrate the benefits of linking risk assessment with Critical Controls and how owners can readily identify deficiencies and efficiently manage the risk profiles of their facilities.

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