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Tailings Management Protocol

If not managed responsibly, tailings can pose potential risks to human health and safety, the environment, infrastructure, and to mining companies themselves. Responsible tailings management is, therefore, essential to minimizing and mitigating these risks, and is an important focus of MAC and its members.

The TSM Tailings Management Protocol goes beyond adherence to technical standards such as those of the Canadian Dam Association, and contains five performance indicators that are designed to confirm whether a facility has implemented a system for responsible tailings management.

The Protocol seeks to ensure that tailings facilities have a formal policy in place, have developed and implemented a tailings management system, have assigned accountability to the Board or governance level of the company, and have developed operation, maintenance and surveillance manuals for all tailings facilities. Companies must also conduct annual reviews of their tailings management system and report the results of this evaluation to the accountable executive officer to meet the requirements of the Protocol.

The Protocol refers to, and is supported by, A Guide to the Management of Tailings Facilities (the Tailings Guide), and Developing an Operation, Maintenance and Surveillance Manual for Tailings and Water Management Facilities (the OMS Guide). 


TSM Tailings Management Protocol *

* 2011 version; for use until end of 2018

TSM Tailings Management Protocol **

** 2017 version; for use starting in 2019; for reporting in 2020

Revisions to the Protocol, made following internal and external reviews of the tailings management component of TSM, raise the bar on what is required to obtain a Level A, AA or AAA, including:

  • Incorporation of independent review as a component of good practice (Level A)

  • Requirement of internal audit against the Tailings Guide at Level A (was AA), external audit at AA (was AAA), and evaluation of effectiveness at Level AAA

  • Requirement that members publish action plans for tailings facilities that fail to meet Level A, with commitments to reach Level A within three years

  • New member gap analysis requirement against Level A criteria, with action plan to reach it

  • Accountability for tailings management raised from CEO to Board level

  • Explicit requirement to identify and implement critical controls

Several of the Indicators in the Protocol refer to the Tailings Guide or the OMS Guide. To obtain a Level A or better for these indicators, implementation of the relevant component must be in conformance with the pertinent Guide. 

Table of Conformance

To assist in the measurement of performance against the indicators, MAC has developed a Table of Conformance. For each indicator, the Table identifies relevant portions of the Tailings Guide that would need to be implemented to be “in conformance” for the purpose of the Protocol. Currently, the Table of Conformance includes the criteria for Indicators 1-4 of the Protocol. The Table will be updated to include criteria related to Indicator 5 once revisions to the OMS Guide are complete.

For MAC members applying TSM, the updated Protocol and the Table of Conformance will take effect in 2019. Until that time, members may continue to use the 2006 version of the Protocol.