2022 – Tailings Management Systems – The Missing Link

Benjamin Cook – HATS Consulting, Ryan Singh – HATS Consulting,  Jarrad Coffey – Rio Tinto

The number of objectives and outcomes required to be achieved by tailings dams’ owners has significantly increased in the last few years, with the introduction of the voluntary Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM) in 2020 in addition to a plethora of management and technical guidance documents from technical and industry bodies. To achieve the objectives of these standards and guidelines the authors have observed that owners are appreciably increasing their in-house teams in all areas related to tailings management and the workload requested of consultants. Teams are also being bolstered by appointment of roles required by the GISTM.

The rapid implementation of the GISTM poses risks of either inefficient utilisation of resources or of the core intent of the GISTM and other standards and guidelines not being achieved. The likelihood of either of these negative effects eventuating increases even more when the newly required outcomes and roles are combined with existing systems in place within owner organisations. A robust management system which provides a clear linkage between the requirements of industry standards and guidelines, and the processes, procedures and outcomes needed to meet the requirements is fundamental in ensuring effective and efficient management of tailings storages.

Several guidance documents present the concept of a Tailings Management System (TMS) which provides a good base for effective management of tailings, however, there is a lack of practical examples applying these concepts, especially within mining organisations’ existing management systems. In addition to a TMS, a Dam Safety Management framework presented in ANCOLD’s Guidelines on Dam Safety Management (2003) presents a fundamental and flexible framework that remains pertinent two-decades later.
This paper reviews and synthesises these systems in an attempt to determine the fundamental aspects of a management system that is practical for use to tailings practitioners within the mining industry. This paper also presents a real example of a TMS that has been implemented within Rio Tinto Iron Ore, including some lessons learnt.

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