Report urges mining firms to improve safety

Mining companies should get consent from the indigenous peoples and affected communities over the life of a mine for both proposed and existing waste storage facilities, or tailings dams, a coalition of environmental groups recommended in a report published last month.

Environmental nonprofits Earthworks and MiningWatch Canada, which wrote the Safety First report along with other groups, said they hope the recommendations would be adopted by mine tailings management for public and environmental safety.

Tailings dams, which are embankments constructed near mines to store mining waste, can be dozens of meters high and stretch for several kilometers.

They are the most common waste-disposal method for miners, but can be dangerous depending on the construction method and a host of other factors.

A tailings dam in the Brazilian town of Brumadinho collapsed in 2019, killing more than 250 people in one of the world’s worst mining disasters.

The report recommends that tailings management must ensure zero harm to people and there should be zero tolerance for human fatalities.

“While the goal of tailings management must be to minimize environmental harm everywhere, it is particularly important to limit any environmental harm to within the mine site,” the report states.

It also recommends that new tailings facilities must not be constructed if the operator cannot ensure the safe and timely evacuation of communities in the area.