Members of a mining industry group in Canada will be required to undertake independent reviews of their waste-management practices under new rules being implemented in the wake of the Mount Polley disaster.
The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) will begin adopting 29 recommendations made by an independent review panel immediately, Pierre Gratton, chief executive officer of the group said in a telephone interview Thursday. The biggest changes include a demand that independent reviews be conducted at every stage of planning, building and managing waste storage, or “tailings” facilities.
“Everyone of these recommendations, if it’s going to reduce the incidents, we want to implement as quickly as possible,” Gratton said. The group has 37 full members, as well as associate members.
The failure of a tailings dam at Imperial Metals Corp.’s Mount Polley mine in British Columbia in 2014 resulted in billions of gallons of mining waste being dumped into lakes and rivers. An independent review commissioned by the B.C. government recommended that all mining companies operating in the province follow MAC’s best practices. As a result, the organization undertook its own independent review to improve those guidelines, Gratton said.
The report recommends that communities that could be affected by a tailings failure be included in emergency plans and training simulations. It also recommends that the responsibility for signing off on a company’s tailings-management policy be raised to the board level.
“Right now there is a requirement that you do report up to the CEO or COO annually,” Gratton said. “This is raising it another notch.”
Tailings disasters have become one of biggest expenses to companies. In November, a spill at the Samarco iron-ore venture in Brazil, owned by BHP Billiton Ltd. and Vale SA, sent 13 billion gallons of tailings mud over a village, into rivers, and out to the ocean. Brazil has said it will seek as much as $5.2 billion in compensation.