The management of tailings storage facilities in terms of safety, the protection of society and the environment in South Africa is governed by comprehensive legislation which is supported by an extensive institutional framework as well as the SANS 10286 standards and code of practice.
Said Stephinah Mudau, Head: Environment: “The South African mining industry has come a long way in its approach to protecting the environment, working with local communities and promoting ethical business practices. Despite the advancements that have been made in respect of management practices for tailings storage facilities, we believe that the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management will augment existing legislative requirements, standards and practices to create a step change for the mining industry to address safety risks and the environmental sustainability of these facilities and to further improve on the management and governance of tailings dams.
“Most importantly, the standard will significantly strengthen current management practices by integrating social, environmental and technical practices, covering the entire life cycle from site selection, design, construction, management and monitoring to closure and post closure.”
Although the South African mining industry is quite advanced in terms of the implementation of optimal tailings management practices, the following elements of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management will augment and enhance the current practices outlined in South Africa’s approach to tailings management:
- Focus on ongoing engagement with communities and all affected people. In order to respect the human rights, including the individual and collective rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, a human rights due diligence process is required to identify and address those that are most at risk from exposure to a tailings facility or its potential failure. This offers meaningful engagement with communities who may be affected throughout the tailings facility lifecycle.
- Emphasise the ongoing management and governance of tailings facilities. It provides for the designation and assignment of responsibility to key roles for the management of a tailings facility, including an Accountable Executive, an Engineer of