OceanaGold has commenced an organisational journey – enhancing the management of tailings storage facilities in alignment with the requirements of the new Global Industry Standard for Tailings Management (GISTM).
In the wake of the 2019 catastrophic dam collapse of the Corrego de Deijao mine in Brumidinho, Brazil – a human and environmental tragedy – concerned investors, environmental leaders and the mining industry took action.
The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) co-convened the Global Tailings Review to establish an international standard that provides a framework for the safer management of tailings storage facilities (TSFs). It resulted in the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, which was released in August last year.
OceanaGold recognises that tailings management and the structural integrity of its TSFs are critical to community safety and environmental protection.
“Safe, sustainable tailings management is just as critical to our business as extracting gold,” said Greg Scanlan, OceanaGold’s Head of Health, Safety and Environment.
“And we have just as big an obligation to protect our community and environment as we do our own people,” he said.
“TSFs are part and parcel of the gold mining industry – it’s our responsibility to ensure we manage them safely and continually refine our processes to innovate and support industry best-practice.”
OceanaGold released a TSF Statement of Position in 2019, which commits the company to designing, constructing and managing TSFs in compliance with all host country regulations, and where applicable, any additional requirements consistent with its TSF management standards and framework. The company also ruled out constructing any new upstream tailings storage facilities.
In 2020, the company strengthened its focus on safe tailings storage by forming a Tailings Governance Committee. The Committee meets regularly to ensure a robust governance and review process occurs for every TSF across the company’s global operations and includes the use of external third-party technical expertise.
In June 2021, the company released an updated TSF Statement of Position specifically committing to meeting the requirements of the GISTM. Recognising the critical importance of making big strides towards meeting the new global industry standards, the company is implementing a new accountability and governance framework to ensure there is a clear separation between operations and governance functions. This includes appointing “accountable executives” who also chair the Tailings Governance Committee. The President and CEO is an active supporter and member of this committee.
Key areas of focus for the committee are:
- Separate internal TSF governance functions from operational functions
- Report independently and directly to the company Board of Directors on TSF operational performance and governance processes
- Apply innovation and new technology to minimise risks of TSF failure
- Ensure meaningfully engagement with affected parties and fully assess social, economic and environmental impacts, integrating feedback, concerns and mitigations into TSF design and management.
OceanaGold places a strong focus on all stages of the TSF lifecycle from design, construction management and closure.
“It’s not good enough to be ‘good enough. We need to be diligent and thorough to ensure the safety of our people and communities and to support and encourage the whole mining industry to adopt standards and work practices that prevent any recurrence of catastrophic structural failures,” Greg said.