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Tailings Management: Good Practice Guide

6 May 2021

This guidance is intended to support safe, responsible management of tailings across the global mining industry, with the ultimate goal of eliminating fatalities and catastrophic events. It provides guidance on good governance and engineering practices that will support continual improvement in the management of tailings facilities and help foster and strengthen a corporate safety culture.

  • A comprehensive, holistic approach is needed across the lifecycle for the safe, responsible management of tailings, encompassing two inter-related core elements:
    • Governance of tailings management.
    • Implementation of good engineering practices for tailings management across the lifecycle.
  • These elements are equally vital to the safe, responsible management of tailings, and should be implemented together in a fully integrated manner throughout all phases and activities of the lifecycle, each fulfilling a different but essential role:
    • Effective governance of tailings management ensures accountability for decisions, provides a management structure with checks and balances for decision-making, provides the means to effectively manage tailings on a day-to-day basis, and provides input to mechanisms to respond effectively if an emergency occurs.
    • Good engineering practices, including a risk-informed approach throughout the life cycle, are needed to improve the safety of tailings facilities. In some cases, improvement can be achieved through enhancing current practices. In other cases, adoption of a performance-based approach will provide a more rigorous technical basis for decision-making across the lifecycle.
  • Implementing these elements together helps to achieve the best outcomes for tailings management and helps ensure effective communications. Most importantly, this approach helps to mitigate the human element in tailings management and reduce the likelihood that human error will lead to ineffective tailings management, or worse, a failure of a tailings facility.

Training Materials

To support implementation of the Guide, ICMM has developed a series of training materials aimed at building capacity within the wider industry, raising awareness at the mine site level – of why tailings management is important, and illustrating what good governance and engineering practices look like. They include a high-level summary for executives, as well as more detailed topics for operational staff. Comprising practical tools, group activities and facilitator notes they provide a truly interactive workshop.

These materials are an optional tool in an Operators toolbox, which can be customised to each company or site.