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Updated OMS Guide to Provide Industry Global Standard in Tailings Management

Today, the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) released the second edition of its Developing an Operation, Maintenance and Surveillance Manual for Tailings and Water Management Facilities (the OMS Guide) which was first released in 2003. MAC also released Version 3.1 of A Guide to the Management of Tailings Facilities (the Tailings Guide). The Tailings Guide was first released in 1998 and MAC released the third edition in 2017. The newly updated Version 3.1 provides stronger and more detailed guidance for emergency preparedness.

With recent events in Brazil underscoring the urgent need for effective tailings management, the revised OMS Guide and the updated Tailings Guide will play an important role in providing an even greater level of assurance of this important aspect of the mining process being done in the most responsible way.

Tailings management has long been a priority for Canada’s mining sector and is a core component of Towards Sustainable Mining® (TSM), a mandatory requirement of MAC’s membership that is focused on responsible mining. If not properly managed, tailings can pose risks to human health, safety and the environment. Given the critical importance of tailings management, it is essential that guidelines be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure they are effective and reflect current best practices. Since last year, MAC has updated its TSM Tailings Management Protocol, in addition to the Tailings Guide and OMS Guide. Collectively, these documents provide critical guidance on, and assurance for, safe and responsible tailings management.

“Our industry understands the great responsibility that comes with ensuring tailings are being managed in the most effective way and MAC’s revised OMS Guide represents an important step in the continual improvement of tailings management. Implementing the Tailings Guide and the OMS Guide together provides a comprehensive framework to optimize tailings facility performance and manage risk,” said Pierre Gratton, President and CEO of MAC. “The OMS Guide, alongside the updated Tailings Guide, will prove to be an invaluable tool in minimizing harm and constitutes a best practice document that can be used in the responsible management of tailings anywhere in the world.”

The revised OMS Guide and updated Tailings Guide mark an important milestone in years of work done in relation to tailings management by Canada’s mining industry, responding, in part, to the incident that took place at the Mount Polley Mine in 2014. Mount Polley provided the catalyst for the sector to focus its efforts on tailings more than ever before and resulted in MAC forming an Independent Task Force to undertake an external review. This review resulted in 29 recommendations, all of which have been acted on, to strengthen MAC’s tailings management guidance and requirements under TSM.

The revised OMS Guide provides strengthened guidance on the development of site-specific OMS manuals. Specifically, the second edition of the OMS Guide:

  • Provides a mechanism for the effective implementation of a tailings management system
  • Provides a mechanism to meet tailings management performance objectives and manage risk
  • Supports effective decision-making for responsible tailings management

“The safe management of tailings must consider all life cycle phases from concept through to design, construction, and operations and finally through the various stages of closure. This second edition of the OMS Guide is a welcome complement to the recently released third edition of the Tailings Guide. It goes well beyond a framework that would only result in a standardized format for an OMS Manual,” said Dr. Norbert Morgenstern, Distinguished Professor at the University of Alberta and internationally recognized authority in the field of Geotechnical Engineering. “Instead, it emphasizes critical aspects of governance, operating procedures, documentation and critical controls. As with the Tailings Guide, this is an indispensable contribution leading to improved safe management of tailings and it deserves wide acceptance. By producing these two volumes, MAC’s leadership merits widespread appreciation from all stakeholders concerned about the well-being of the mining industry.”

Revisions to the OMS Guide were undertaken by MAC’s Tailings Working Group (TWG), which consists of more than 50 representatives of MAC’s membership. Collectively, TWG members have a tremendous depth and breadth of experience and expertise in tailings management in Canada and around the world.

“We are extremely grateful to the members of the TWG for their dedication and commitment to responsible tailings management, and for the contributions of their knowledge, wisdom and time, without which the updated Tailings Guide and OMS Guide would not be possible,” concluded Gratton. “We are confident that these updated standards go far beyond adherence to technical standards in ensuring that tailings facilities have formal policies in place focused on implementing a tailings management system that prioritizes accountability, mitigates risk and above all, focuses on safety.”

For more information on MAC’s tailings management guidance and requirements under TSM, or to download the TSM Tailings Management Protocol, Tailings Guide and OMS Guide, please visit:

The mining industry is a major sector of Canada’s economy, contributing $97 billion to national GDP and responsible for 19 percent of Canada’s total domestic exports. Canada’s mining sector employs 634,000 people directly and indirectly across the country. The industry is proportionally the largest private sector employer of Indigenous peoples in Canada and a major customer of Indigenous-owned businesses.

About MAC

The Mining Association of Canada is the national organization for the Canadian mining industry. Its members account for most of Canada’s production of base and precious metals, uranium, diamonds, metallurgical coal, mined oil sands and industrial minerals and are actively engaged in mineral exploration, mining, smelting, refining and semi-fabrication. Please visit


Cynthia Waldmeier

Director of Communications


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