Report of the TSM Tailings Review Task Force

The tailings failure that occurred on August 4, 2014 at the Mount Polley Mine – owned and operated by Imperial Metals, a member of the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) – led the Board of MAC to ask: “Are there improvements in the tailings protocols under Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) that could have prevented this tailings spill?”

Starting in the late 1990s, MAC’s TSM initiative was developed after the Canadian mining industry faced an erosion of public confidence following a series of tailing spill incidents. In the face of these incidents, members of MAC embarked on a collective initiative to improve company performance and ensure public and environmental safety. After years of development in consultation with communities of interest, TSM was officially launched in 2004.

It is, therefore, with a deep sense of regret that we must undertake this review of tailings performance in the face of another major tailings spill incident. However, while it is without doubt that engineered systems can fail, the question always is: “What action have parties taken to address the failure?” In this case, MAC has launched an effort to determine what improvements can be made in the TSM tailings management requirements to drive toward the goal of zero major tailings failures. It was with this objective in mind that this independent Task Force was given the job of reviewing the TSM Tailings Management Protocol and associated guidance documents (the Guides) and making the recommendations that form the basis of this report.

The Task Force, in its review of the TSM Tailings Management Protocol and the three MAC Guides, is making a total of 29 recommendations. For ease of reference, the Task Force has divided these according to the performance indicator (1-5) or guide that they relate too. The Task Force also puts forward cross-cutting recommendations that are aimed to improve TSM as a whole. The Task Force has also grouped the 29 recommendations into two broad categories; those that we recommend that the MAC Board consider on a priority basis and others that may require additional consideration by MAC members and the MAC Tailings Working Group or that the Task Force considers less critical to achieving the goal of zero failures.

In the body of this report, the Task Force provides a rationale for each of the recommendations.

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