This 2019 study of approximately 30 guidance documents, project initiatives and standards from around the world was undertaken by GMG and Cambrian College. It offers an understanding of existing practices and initiatives covering mine tailings throughout the global mining industry.

This landscape was last updated by GMG in 2022. 

Are there ongoing activities that are missing from this list? Fill out the form at the bottom of the page.

  • GECAMIN Tailings 2022

    Tailings 2022 is a series of online conferences where members of the global mining industry can learn on the latest developments and best practices in the transport, disposal, control, and monitoring of tailings deposits.

    Visit the website here. 

    All Phases  
    Pre/Initial Construction  
    Operation/ Maintenance  
  • Global Minerals Professional Alliance (GMPA) Global Action on Tailings

    An international expert taskforce is working together to build awareness and knowledge of tailings management through information on design, operation, risk management and improvement opportunities, and education and professional development activities to enhance competencies in tailings management.  A key goal is to support professionals in ways that lead to greater trust by society about industry’s ability to manage tailings risks.  To promote information sharing and to support access to content a Global Action on Tailings Resource Centre will be established on the GMPA website.

    Additionally, each GMPA member association has specialist tailings committees providing guidance on conferences, online technical education, publications, as well as strategic input into industry reviews and consultations.   

  • GRID-Arendal Global Tailings Dam Portal Project

    With the goal of reducing the likelihood of potentially lethal accidents, the Church of England Pensions Board and Swedish National Pension Funds’ Council of Ethics requested that mining companies disclose data regarding mine tailings dams, which have historically been kept private. Using this data, GRID-Arendal has developed and launched the world’s first public database of mine tailings dams and storage facilities, which contains easily searchable and extremely detailed information on over 1700 mine tailings dams worldwide. The Global Tailings Portal is intended for widespread use, targeting insurers, scientists, governments, the media, the mining industry, the finance community, and civil society alike. 

    This project is marked as completed on January 24, 2020. See press release here.

    Visit the website here.

  • Earthworks and Mining Watch Canada Safety First Guidelines for Responsible Mine Tailings Management June 2020

    This publication provides guidance on establishing safety and zero-harm as a guiding principle in design, construction, operation, and closure of tailings. Some of the considerations include:

    • When a tailings facilities must not be built
    • Rigorous safety controls
    • Requirements for community consent
    • Public information
    • The Corporate board’s responsibility for risk

    Access the guidelines here.

  • International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) Sustainable design and post-closure performance of tailings dams – bulletin 153

    This document (released in 2013) has been made through the input of multiple member countries and as such, presents a range of international approaches. It is intended to provide guidance to mine operators, owners, designers, and regulators on closure considerations for design at all stages of the tailings dam. This bulletin highlights the specific aspects that require special consideration when a sustainable design life of 1,000 years or more is adopted. The bulletin contains the following three main sections: sustainable closure principles, sustainable design considerations and monitoring.

    Browse ICOLD publications here.

  • International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) Tailings Dam Design Technology Update - bulletin 181

    This bulletin, updated in 2021, is intended to provide information regarding tailings properties and identifies the benefits and limitations of technologies for designers, owners, regulators, communities and various organizations. It provides updates in terms of tailings properties and technologies related to their dewatering and disposal, along with the associated dams and containment structures with its focus on the technical design of the confining dams. The objective is to improve the management of tailings dams. This bulletin recognizes that there is no one size fits all approach to the design of tailings dams, thus it must account for site-specific conditions. The main sections of the bulletin are:

    • Tailings properties
    • Tailings technologies
    • Tailings dam design practices

    Browse ICOLD publications here.

  • International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) Recommendations for operation, maintenance and rehabilitation – bulletin 168

    This guide (released in 2017) is aimed to assist new owners of tailings dams (new and existing dams) in developing countries regarding operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of tailings facilities. Recommendations are based on the experiences of other organizations or countries, including 28 participating countries. The recommendations presented in this guideline focus on the following aspects: 

    • Responsibilities 
    • Communications 
    • Organizational structures 
    • Routine maintenance 
    • Minor repairs 
    • Major rehabilitation 
    • Inspection 
    • Monitoring 
    • Unusual events 
    • Emergency action plans 
    • Public relations

    Visit the ICOLD bulletin’s here. 

  • International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) Dam safety management: operational phase of the dam life cycle – bulletin 154

    This bulletin (released in 2017) guides the development and implementation of dam safety management systems in the operation phase. It includes the general structure of a systems approach to safety management and strives to develop a system that can address all the interdependencies and encompass all the arrangements necessary to ensure proper dam safety management. The main aspects highlighted in this bulletin include:

    • Overarching principles of dam safety
    • Dam safety management systems
    • Organizational arrangements
    • Dam safety activities

    The intent of this document is to help develop, implement, review, and improve the management of dam safety at all organizational levels.

    Browse ICOLD publications here.

  • International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management

    Dr. Bruno Oberle spearheaded the Global Tailings Review over 18 months, with ICMM, UNEP (The United Nations Environment Programme) and PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment) as co-conveners. The goal is to discover global best practices in relation to mine tailings by looking at past lessons learned. The three stages are as follows:  

    • Visiting communities that live near tailings facilities and evaluating best practices  
    • Conducting a broad consultation  
    • Developing international standards for tailings storage facilities 

    The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management includes the following aspects:  

    • A global and transparent consequence-based tailings facility classification system with appropriate requirements for each level of classification, including affected communities  
    • A system for credible, independent reviews of tailings facilities  
    • Requirements for emergency planning and preparedness, as well as management and governance  
    • Requirements for design, construction, operation, and monitoring

    Read the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, released in August 2020, here.

    Visit the website here. 

  • International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) ICMM 2016 Tailings – Define an appropriate tailings storage facility governance framework

    The objective is to strengthen and apply the focus on the following six managerial principles in order to minimize the risk of failure to tailings storage facilities. The six key principles include:  

    • Accountability, Responsibility, and Competency  
    • Planning and Resourcing  
    • Risk Management  
    • Change Management  
    • Emergency preparedness and Response  
    • Review and insurance

    Visit the Tailing Governance Framework: Position Statement here.

  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Mine Closure and Reclamation Terminology Mine Closure and Reclamation Management Planning ISO 21795-2:2021

    These two projects are under the technical committee of Mine Closure and Reclamation Management. The target of these developing projects is to provide standards regarding mine closure and reclamation management to minimize the impacts caused by mines during the closure lifecycle (exploration, extraction, suspension of operation, mine closure, reclamation, and follow-up management). The aim is to re-establish mine closure planning at every stage for sustainable resource development and risk management; however, these standards are likely to exclude safety and health issues related to workplace activity.

    Read the Abstract for Part 1: Requirements here.

    Read the Abstract for Part 2: Guidance  here.

  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Environmental Management Systems – ISO 14001:2015

    This standard (last reviewed and confirmed in 2021, there still current) sets out the requirements for an environmental management system, by helping organizations identify, manage, monitor and control their environmental issues in a holistic manner. This standard is intended to be used by organization that are interested in managing their systems and environmental concerns. Some of the key elements this standard requires are a greater commitment from leadership, implementation of proactive actions, a focus of the entire life cycle, a stakeholder-focused communication strategy, and ultimately for environmental management to become a greater priority within the organization. Some of the key intended outcomes of implementing this standard include: 

    • Enhancement of environmental performance 
    • Fulfilment of compliance obligations 
    • Achievement of environmental objectives 

    This standard can be used by any organization and once adopted, an independent certification body would audit the practices against those of the standard and if cleared they can become ISO 14001 certified. Adopting such a standard and specifically becoming certified has proven to be beneficial for mining organizations given that it reduces environmental risks and liability, improves awareness, creates cost savings, and lowers insurance cost. 

    Read the abstract here.

  • UN Environment & GRID – Arendal Mine Tailings Storage: Safety Is No Accident

    Published in 2017, this report has been developed to encourage targeted action at the policy and technical level to make zero catastrophic incidents become a reality and ensure that economic prosperity is fully compatible with community health and safety. In doing so, the report makes two central recommendations, the first being to take a safety-first approach in management actions and on the ground operations. The second is to establish a UN Environment stakeholder forum to facilitate the international strengthening of tailings dam regulations. It also identifies three actions to improve regulation and practice: facilitate international cooperation on mining regulation and the safe storage of mine tailings through a knowledge hub, failure prevention and crisis response. In addition, the report discusses how mining firms can adopt cleaner processes, new technologies and re-use materials in order to reduce waste. The two technological advances discussed are bioleaching and smart sensors for monitoring.

    Visit the Mine Tailings Storage: Safety is No Accident webpage here. 

  • United Nations Environment Programme & International Council on Metals & the Environment (UNEP/ICME) The Cyanide Code

    The Cyanide Code is a voluntary industry program created to assist and improve the gold and silver mining industries’ cyanide management practices. The intent of the code is to reduce the potential exposure of workers and communities to harmful concentrations of cyanide‚ to limit releases of cyanide to the environment‚ and to enhance response actions in the event of an exposure or release. This code was developed by the UNEP and ICME in 2000 at an international workshop in Paris. It exclusively focuses on the safe management of cyanide that is produced, transported and used for the recovery of gold and silver, and on mill tailings and leach solutions. It also includes the following topics: production, transport, storage, and use of cyanide and the decommissioning of cyanide facilities, financial assurance, accident prevention, emergency response, training, public reporting, stakeholder involvement and verification procedures. The code includes nine principles, all of which have a specific standard of practice recommended. The principles included are:

    • Production
    • Transportation
    • Handling and storage
    • Operations
    • Decommissioning
    • Worker safety
    • Emergency response
    • Training and dialogue

    Visit the Cyanide Code here. 

  • Australian National Committee on Large Dams (ANCOLD) Guidelines on Tailings Dams

    The guideline provided by ANCOLD are an updated version of the previous guidelines on tailings management, the new version focuses specifically on the risks through all aspects of the lifecycle and designing for closure and post-closure.

    These guidelines are intended to provide a single base document that supports other similar documents. The main sections of the document are:

    • Key management considerations
    • Tailings storage methods and deposition principles
    • Characterization and behaviour of tailings
    • Design tailings storage capacity and water management and embankment
    • Construction
    • Operation and closure.

    Access the guideline here.

    Access all ANCOLD guidelines here.

  • Australian Government, Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources Leading Practice Sustainable Development Program for the Mining Industry – Tailings Management

    This handbook, published in 2016, was developed to assist the mining sector in the reduction of their impact on the environment and the surrounding communities. The program discusses a systematic, risk-based approach to tailings management while providing principles for management during all phases of the life cycle. The program is designed for mine operators; however, it can also be used for interested parties such as governments, mining consultants, environmental officers or non-governmental organizations. The aspects involved in this program include:

    • A broad sustainable development framework to tailings management
    • A life-of-mine risk-based approach to tailings management
    • Future directions for leading practice tailings management
    • Leading practice tailings management relating to the design, operation and closure.

    View the Leading Practice Handbook: Tailings Management here.

    View other leading practice handbooks here.

  • Government of Western Australia, Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety Tailings storage facilities in Western Australia – Code of Practice

    The code of practice is a guide to achieving the standards required under legislation. It covers all aspects of the lifecycle, such as site selection, design, construction, operation, monitoring and surveillance, emergency response planning, management or rehabilitation of TSFs and as such should be used by anyone responsible for those aspects. It also can be applied to supervisors, TSF personnel, and safety and health representatives who need to understand the hazards and environmental requirements associated with constructing, operating and decommissioning TSFs. The code includes references to both mandatory and voluntary actions.

    Visit the webpage here.

  • Queensland Government Dam Safety Management

    The purpose of this guideline is to describe good practices of construction and management of referable dams and to assist owners on how to safely manage their dams and protect the environment and surrounding community. The dam safety management program’s intent is to minimize any risks associated with the dam and any possible failures. The guideline is aimed for referable dam owners, operators, employers and consultants. Even though this guideline has been made specifically for referable dams it can be used to develop a dam safety management plan for other dams. The program involves many components including: 

    • Investigation 
    • Design, and Construction Documentation including Data Book, Design Report and As-Constructed Details (or Construction Report) 
    • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) 
    • Detailed Operating and Maintenance Manuals (DOMMs) 
    • Inspection and Evaluation Reports, Dam Safety Review Report and an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) 

    Visit the website here.

  • Queensland Government & METS Ignited METS Clustering

    Mets Ignited and the Queensland Government are collaborating on a clustering initiative that will deliver collaborative solutions to key mining industry challenges in Queensland. These take place in the form of workshops that contain panel discussions and presentations and are held annually. The initiative was launched in 2018 and was met with significant attendance and interest from METS, mining companies, research institutions and government and industry bodies all of which discussed possible themes relevant to the expertise in the region. Later that year two more workshops were launched to discuss social license and digital solutions for resources. The latest cluster workshop was held in 2019 and key topics were robotics and automation, digital and data analytics and tailings and mine affected water. 

    Visit the collaboration page here.

    Visit the website.

  • Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) Fluid fine tailings management guidelines

    In conjunction with its members and associate members, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance has developed a series of guidelines pertaining to fluid fine tailings management. COSIA has a primary focus on oil sands tailings, but their guidelines may be applicable to other commodities. To date, COSIA has covered topics such as performance management, tailing deposit sampling, and determining fluid tailings volumes, among others.

    See the Fluid fine tailings management guidelines here.

  • Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) Tailings Management

    COSIA’s tailings management initiative focuses on improving the management of tailings created in the oil sands. The initiative works with universities, government, research institutions, and other companies and partners. It aims to combine shared experience, expertise, and financial commitments of oil sand mining companies to find solutions to tailings management such as new technologies.

    COSIA has identified three key industry issues, and are working to address them:

    • Accumulation of fluid fine tailings (FFT) within tailing ponds – development of tailings management technologies – see the guidelines for FFTs here.
    • Treatment of process affected water – the remaining water after FFTs are removed
    • Reclamation of  end tailings deposits

    COSIA and Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment Solutions (AI-EES) released a Tailings Technology Roadmap and Action Plan Project (released in 2012) providing a review of technologies.

    Visit the website here. 

  • Canadian Dam Association (CDA) Dam Safety Guidelines

    These guidelines are an updated version (revised 2013) of dam safety principles requested by CDA members. The new version endorses a risk-informed approach which includes traditional deterministic standards-based analysis as one of many considerations. The Guidelines consist of principles can be applied to all dams, and an outline of processes and criteria for suggested management of dam safety in accordance with the principles. 

    Read the publications here.

  • The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) The Tailings Guide – A Guide to the Management of Tailings Facilities

    This document can be applied by both MAC and non-MAC members. The purpose is to provide assistance on best practices for a safe, environmentally, and socially responsible management of tailings facilities during their lifecycle. The three main purposes are:

    • To provide a framework for the management of tailings
    • To help the owners of tailings facilities create a management system that meets the criteria for safety
    • To increase the regularity of applying the management principles

    The framework provides owners with the basis for implementing site-specific tailings management. The elements include:

    • Policy and commitment
    • Planning
    • Implementing the tailings management framework
    • Performance evaluation
    • Management review for continual improvement

    Another important aspect involved in this document is the risk-based approach, which includes identifying the potential physical and chemical risks that may occur during the lifecycle. The potential risks should be known during the project conception and planning and be continuously updated during the lifecycle along with any new technological advances (BAT). MAC has developed a checklist to help uncover gaps and deficiencies within tailings management with specifications in the existing procedures, identifying training requirements, obtaining permits, conducting internal audits, and aiding conformance and due diligence, at any phase of the lifecycle.

    Access the MAC Tailings Guide here.

  • The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) OMS Guide – Developing and Operation, Maintenance, and Surveillance Manual for Tailings and Water Management Facilities

    OMS is used in conjuncture to the Tailings Guide to allow for the set-out framework to function. This guide provides guidance for site-specific operations, surveillance, and maintenance for tailings facilities during development and execution. It is intended to improve risk management, increase the performance of tailings facilities, achieve the intended design, meet the legal requirements, corporate policy and make commitments to communities of interest (COI).

    The second edition of this guide was originally published in 2019 with version 2.1 released in 2021. 

    Access the MAC OMS Guide here.

  • The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) TSM – Towards Sustainable Mining

    TSM is mandatory for all MAC members in Canada. The three key areas they focus on are: 

    • Community 
    • Environment 
    • Energy 

    The program sets up a set of expectations that companies will be judged against in order to achieve a higher standard. They have six protocols that address some of the main issues that mining companies have, one of which is tailings management. These are developed on a scale from C, B, A, AA and AAA, with AAA representing the best practice. The performance indicators that must be meet in order to receive a high level are as follows: 

    • Tailings management policy and commitment 
    • Tailings management system and emergency preparedness 
    • Assigned accountability and responsibility for tailings management 
    • Annual tailings management review
    • Operation, maintenance, and surveillance (OMS) manual 

    This protocol is supported by both the Tailings Guide and the OMS Guide documents. 

    Unchanged, last updated February 2019. 

    Visit the website here.

  • National Resource Canada (NRCan) Tailings Management at NRCan

    The NRCan is aiming to influence the science and technology employed by the mining industry to manage tailings at existing and future mine sites. They are working with provincial and territorial governments, industry, and academia to assess and develop new waste management options.

    The Tailings Management at NRCan publication provides and overview of tailings management, environmental protection, research and development, and the future of tailings management.

    Visit the website here. 

  • United Nation Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Safety guidelines and good practices for tailings management facilities

    These guidelines, created in May 2014,  were developed by the Joint Expert Group on Water and Industrial Accidents, with the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE). It was created to assist in the management of tailings facilities for the public, operators and ECE member countries. The intent of applying these good practice guidelines is that it will limit the number of accidents at these facilities as well as lessen the severity of the impacts. The document includes two aspects, the recommendations and the technical and organizational aspects. The recommendations include safety principles and guidance to member countries, authorities and operators. The technical and organizational aspects include the lifecycle of the mining facility and proper procedures.

    View the UNECE guidelines here.

  • EIT Raw Materials STINGS – Supervision of Tailings by an Integrated Novel Approach to combine Ground-based and Spaceborne Sensordata

    STINGS is an innovation project that ran from April 2017 to September 2020. With the aim of developing a ground and space-borne remote sensing and analysis system that will be cost efficient in order to monitor the ground infrastructure stability in tailings dams.  

    The project objective is to increase the safety standards in regard to tailing facilities by creating a tool that will provide guidance on environmental impacts from tailings dams. By implementing STINGS, it will provide extended monitoring and an early warning system for the identification of risks. The project offers a unique information service to identify risks, prevent disasters and to capture previously undetected secondary values. The monitoring system will have different sensors and focus on multiple information such as physical stability as well as chemical and mineralogical content. 

    Visit the website here.

  • European Commission Best Available Techniques (BAT) Reference Document for the Management of Waste from Extractive Industries

    This guide aims to provide technical information regarding the best available technologies (BAT) available in relation to mine waste. It is designed for industries, competent authorities and other relevant stakeholders with the intention of providing them with up-to-date information and data on the management of extractive waste. By providing such information the intent is to reduce the effects to human health and the environment brought about by the management of the extraction of waste. The information covered in this guide is as follows:

    • General information and key figures on extractive industries in Europe
    • Extractive waste generation
    • Extractive waste facilities and key environmental issues
    • Applied processes and techniques for the management of extractive waste
    • Emission and consumption levels resulting from the management of extractive waste
    • Techniques to consider in the determination of best available techniques and emerging techniques.

    Access the European Commission BAT guide here.

  • Steering Committee Chaired by the Church of England Pensions Board and the Swedish Council of Ethics of the AP Funds Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative

    The Investor Mining & Tailings Safety Initiative is an investor-led engagement convening institutional investors active in extractive industries including major asset owners and asset managers.  Inputs into the investor process have been sought from communities impacted by the recent disaster, leading international experts, government representatives, leading international technical advisors as well as company representatives.

    The Investor Mining & Tailings Safety Initiative is governed through a Steering Committee Chaired by the Church of England Pensions Board and the Swedish Council of Ethics of the AP Funds.

    This has led to a number of interventions. The first was a call for a new independent and publicly accessible international standard for tailings dams based upon the consequences of failure. Investors have been pleased to see that in response to their call, a global review was announced and co-convened by the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM), the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

    The second intervention requesting detailed disclosure on tailings storage facilities is outlined below.

    Following the catastrophic tailings dam failure at the Córrego do Feijão mining facility in Brumadinho, Minas Gerias, Brazil, which led to the loss of over 245 lives, and 25 missing people (as of May 2019), a group of institutional investors (now representing more than $13 trillion assets under management) have written to 726 extractive companies seeking greater disclosure on the management of tailings storage facilities.

    Access the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative here.

  • United States Society on Dams (USSD) Risk Management for Dam Construction

    The focus of this paper is on project risk management techniques used for new dams and dam rehabilitation projects. The aspects discussed in this document are:

    • Formal Risk Management process
    • Risk categories for dam construction
    • Strategies to manage risks
    • Several case studies where risk management strategies were employed

    The recommended risk management strategies are: avoid, mitigate, transfer, and share. This document is intended for dam owners, contractors, and engineers who are involved in the planning, design, and construction of a dam. The aim is to assist the industry gain insight into the importance of proper project risk management for dams throughout the course of the project.

    Access the USSD Risk Management paper here.

  • Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR) Alaska Dam Safety Program

    The aim is to provide protection to Alaskan life and property through the effective collection, evaluation, understanding, and sharing of the information necessary to identify, estimate, and mitigate the risks created by tailings dams. The program is an effort between the ADNR and other involved parties that are involved throughout the lifecycle. The guidelines serve as a communication tool to foster cooperation between all the parties to allow for optimal results. Aspects involved in the guidelines include the lifecycle of mine tailings including regulations and certificates of approval, inspection reports, and emergency action plans.

    Access the ADNR Alaska Dam Safety Program here.

  • Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Federal Guidelines for Dam Safety

    These guidelines are used to promote management practices for dam safety for all Federal agencies that are responsible for a mine’s lifecycle. The intent of the guidelines is to obtain a common approach to dam safety practices and to encourage high safety standards. The guidelines include aspects such as: 

    • Dam site investigation 
    • Design 
    • Construction 
    • Operation and maintenance 
    • Risk and failure assessment 
    • Emergency preparedness 

    Even though the guidelines are currently applied by Federal dams, the objective is to encourage state dam safety agencies and private dam owners to adopt these guidelines and become more safety conscious. 

    Visit the publications website here.


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