Tailings dams have been failing for far too long, with shocking consequences for human life and the environment. Further abroad, the pernicious collapse of the Brumadinho tailings dam in Brazil in 2019 is a recent example in a very long history of tailings storage failures worldwide. However, out of tragedy has come an important development for the international mining industry. The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM) was published in August 2020 with most major mine owners adopting the standard as a critical component of their governance.

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Good design saves lives
The mining industry has come a long way in improving safety for mine workers and the communities living nearby. They’ve developed fresh approaches to protecting the environment, found new ways to include and support local enterprise, and been progressive in helping host economies grow sustainably.

There is still much more that needs to be done; however, to safeguard lives, improve performance, and demonstrate transparency. Critical risk decisions can still be influenced, validated, and overshadowed by the lure of potential returns.

For example, minimising risk (through the knowledge base) by reducing the volume of tailings and water placed in external facilities contributes to high security and subsequent peace of mind (ref Principle 3)

Embracing change
The challenge for all stakeholders is to embrace new standards whilst developing creative and innovative solutions. We are confronted with an existing reality that will be a shameful legacy, and as such, we need
to be relentless in our search for knowledge-based outcomes. To assist us in this process can I humbly suggest the following technical document as both a useful and informative resource? (in particular, referring to Principle 3)

The current legacy of failures, catastrophic environmental damage, financial loss and most horrifically, lives lost should motivate us with increased focus and energy to find better and safer tailings storage solutions. This is what it all comes down to - the goal of managing tailings for zero harm to people and the environment with zero tolerance for human fatalities. GISTM is a significant step in the right direction. I trust that this resource empowers us to explore the full range and diversity of options contributing to the enhanced and improved placement and storage of tailings whilst reducing risk.