VALE’S TROUBLE IN 1/3 OF ITS TAILINGS FACILITIES EXISTS WORLD WIDE
Release: October 7,2020, Stonington, Maine, U.S.A.
Contact : Lindsay Newland Bowker LNBowker@bowkerassociates.org 207 367 5145
Vale is not alone in this and that only their TSF woes makes news belies that their 1/3 of troubled facilities is, by all available data, the same world-wide. Neither the coalition of endorsers of Safety First, nor the GTR admits, or is working on, that.
That 33 out of 104 Vale TSF’s are at issue viz stability assurance matches my overall estimate in the worlds ~21,000 existing TSF’s. This 1/3 of portfolio estimate was set forth in Dark Shadow’s (Bowker Chambers 2017) and is further confirmed and explicated in WMTF’s yet to be published work on the global tailings inventory and its present state. Many long excerpts of that have been released in emails.
Important for NGO’s and investors to understand that identifying facilities where loss prevention work is needed is not the same as “at immediate risk of failure”. Everything we know about catastrophic failure says that failure forms and incubates over many years. The earlier the errors are identified and corrected and acceptable management protocols instituted the lower the ultimate risk of failure from other than random, uncontrollable events. To say that an estimated 1/3 of the present world portfolio needs corrective intervention to prevent loss from human error is not the same as saying 1/3 are at imminent risk.
For several years, I have repeatedly and publicly posited that as much as 1/3 of the world portfolio falls short of safe standards and have publicly advocated since 2014 that the first priority for loss prevention must be to find and fix or remove those already existing TSF’s that pose a risk of catastrophic failure, that is to say generational, non-remediable public loss.
Here is the slide from my CERES Presentation with the same information presented in my presentations and correspondence with COE and my presentation to UBS in February 2019. ( I have since refined the 18,000 to 21,000 from additional information)
I hope to finally get my report, “State of World Mine Tailings Portfolio” out in the coming weeks. ( in the works since July)
That the world tsf portfolio included an unacceptably high proportion of existing (active and not soundly closed) facilities was first identified in Bowker Chambers 2015. It was obvious in the stats. It was also obvious as of 2014 that the scale of investment needed to clean up the world portfolio would require some form of government assistance even if the ultimate debt accrued to originally responsible miners as well as investor support. I wrote about that in the Bowker Associates wordpress as early as 2014.
Since 2014 I have consistently advocated publicly a united objective of finding and fixing at risk dams and prioritizing those posing the greatest near-term risk of harm. I advised COE at the outset that this should be its main aim and offered a very different strategy for investor intervention than that chosen by the COE partners. I recently shared those ignored recommendations widely. It focused on a further level of screening of all existing ” high hazard potential facilities” planned for production in the next five years to ensure that proper stability assessment had been applied. Here is the actual slide from my three invited investor presentations in February 2019.
That is still what is needed.
To keep holding Vale up as somehow anomalous misses the point. Safety First misses the point. The GTR misses the point.
Repeatedly reporting only Vale’s woes brings with it the cloud of Brazils still deeply flawed system of risk identfication and mandated action levels which have nothing whatsoever to do with actual stability analysis. By Brazil’s statutory “check list” standard for action level Brumadinho, weeks before its failure, was rated “not likely to fail.
Safety First and the GTR have taken control of the narrative on TSF reform each in streams that do not address or have as a principal aim the fundamental work of finding and fixing at risk TSF’s. That leaves little space for the truth or the main work actually needed, the work World Mine Tailings Failures has done and is still trying to do.