There are companies, consultants and regulators around the world that have a high level of commitment to tailings dam safety and have developed practices which have been instrumental in ensuring the safe operation of tailings dams by many companies in many countries. Their experience should be taken advantage of in striving to further improve industry’s performance through the development of a comprehensive Tailings Responsibility Code that will establish well defined standards of practice, provide detailed audit protocols and require third party audits, all of which should be made available to stakeholders in a transparent manner. Henry Brehaut Key Note Address Tailings& Mine Waste 2017 Banff Nov5-8 2017
Though there was too much industry control when the then existing UNEP Metals & Mining division created the cyanide code to address public alarm at the frequency and consequence of cyanide heap leach failures and head off outright cyanide bans, I do believe that a mutually informed all stakeholders code in local/national law that does as the Mt Polley Panel advised and UNEP has endorsed to put safety first is the way to go. Global organizations need some uniformity in code and regulation to function.
The legal model that works best for that is the universally familiar “buildings code” model under a separate enforcement and oversight structure. That is what Tailings Management needs..not just for tailings dams but for all means of deposition. That model works through a legally established building code with checks and balances in its governance and enforcement structure.
Through buildings codes and professionally staffed Buildings Departments urban areas have accommodated ever higher buildings and ever more creative engineering designs for high rises that provide for innovation and advancement and a means of always being in tune with innovation & advancement through code revisions and the statutorily provided process for that.
The Buildings Codes/Building Department model forces accountability to best practice, to the costs of managing tailings to best practice and to a means of insuring that best practice keeps pace with innovation and new research .
The Buildings Code/Buildings Department model also works for investors, insurers , sureties and lenders as it provides a built in “underwriting” process where competence and ongoing professional development of all inspectors and each key position is defined in law.
I recently heard from a research team looking at how to reorient taxation for mines to better capture revenue and fund capacity focused on the public liability center of mining..its waste management practices.
Together these two shifts in public policy would more or less cure the loss prevention dilemma built into almost all the legal code for mining world wide.
The big question, is where is the professional capacity to make this work. ? Does it actually exist presently within top producing companies with major international tailings portfolios, let alone regionally resident in adequate numbers relative to the size of existing and planned tailings facility portfolios?
Jack Cadwell has written that even among the top 40 there are too few qualified tailings management engineers to cover a given company’s global portfolio of tailings facilities and that many, like BHP as of Samarco, have non at all relying completely on consultants . In the long dry time prior the supercycle professional competence was stripped to bare bones everywhere. As we lay out piece by piece in our new paper the industry globally gave us all time highs in consequence by rushing to maximum production from this bare bones place.
I wonder in the agenda or in lunch discussions there at Tailings 2017 whether is any actual realization of this massive gap in technical competence or any plans afoot on how to build it? Is anyone talking about how to build professional development and competence to enforce and oversee an international tailings code?