Stockholm (NordSIP) – The co-convenors of the Global Tailings Review (GTR) – the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) – have endorsed the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, a new industry standard.
“The product of a rigorous, independent, multi-stakeholder process, the Standard will establish much needed robust requirements for the safer management of both existing and new tailings facilities globally,” the GTR commented on June 25th. “The next steps are to finalise the accompanying reports, which will provide additional detail, context, background and recommendations on the Standard. The Standard will be published once it has been translated and all accompanying documents are ready. We expect to publish these in the coming weeks.”
The initiative was created in the aftermath of the January 25th, 2019 accident at a mining facility owned by Vale in Brazil, where a tailings dam holding back toxic waste from mining operations broke. According to the latest assessment, the dam collapse spilt 11.7 million cubic meters of mining waste onto the local town and countryside below, resulting in over five miles of destruction. As of December 29th, 2019, 259 people have been confirmed dead, and 11 are missing. Sadly, this was not an exception for the Brazilian mining company. In 2015 a similar accident killed 19 people in at another of Vale’s operations in Mariana. In 2012, based on 88,766 votes, Public Eye awarded Vale the people’s prize for “particularly flagrant human rights abuses and environmental harm by corporations”.
Dr Bruno Oberl heads GTR. He has been a professor for Green Economy and Resource Governance at L’Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, since 2016. Prior to this, he was Switzerland’s State Secretary for the Environment, during which time he was instrumental in managing the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and establishing the Green Climate Fund (GCF). This political role followed his appointment to the deputy directorship of the Federal Office for the Environment, Forests and Landscape in Switzerland and director of the newly created Federal Office for the Environment in 2005.
“For decades, people have called for a global standard that can drive best practice. It is tragic it has taken the Brumadinho disaster to make this happen. In January 2019 we called for there to be a new industry standard that drives best practice to address the risk of tailings facility failure, and we have been assured by the Global Tailings Review’s independent expert panel that if this standard had been in place, the disaster at Brumadinho would not have happened,” Adam Matthews, Director Investment Team at the Church of England Pensions Board, and John Howchin, John Howchin, Secretary-General of the Council on Ethics Swedish National Pension Funds added.
“We expect all mining companies to comply with this framework, and responsible investors looking to address the risks of tailings failure now have a responsibility to drive implementation, incorporating the Standard into stewardship and active ownership strategies. The Standard is one of a series of interventions we will be supporting,” Matthews and Howchin concluded.
Photo of Dr Oberl via Wikimedia commons
Featured image via Wikimedia commons