Tailings Management Protocol

The Towards Sustainable Mining® (TSM®) Tailings Management Protocol, first released in 2004 and revised in 2011, is used to measure tailings management performance, with five performance indicators focused on:

  • Having a corporate tailings management policy and commitment
  • Developing and implementing site-specific tailings management systems and emergency preparedness measures
  • Assigning accountability and responsibility for tailings management
  • Conducting annual tailings management reviews
  • Developing and implementing site-specific OMS manuals

The Tailings Management 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).

In 2017, the Tailings Management Protocol was revised to respond to recommendations of an independent review, and to align with revisions in the third edition of the Tailings Guide. These revisions raised the bar on performance expectations, including requiring:

  • Independent review
  • Assignment of accountability for tailings management to the accountable executive officer
  • Internal audit to obtain a TSM Level A, external audit to obtain a TSM Level AA, and evaluation of effectiveness to obtain a TSM Level AAA
  • Members to publish action plans for tailings facilities that fail to meet TSM Level A
  • New members to conduct a gap analysis with an action plan to obtain a TSM Level A for all indicators

In 2019, this Protocol was further revised to reflect a move of guidance on emergency preparedness from the OMS Guide to the Tailings Guide. The 2019 version can be downloaded here:

For MAC members applying TSM, there is a transition period for implementation of the 2017 and 2019 versions of this Protocol. For more information on the transition period, please see Description of Phase-in of Updates to the Tailings Management Component of TSM.

Until this transition period is complete, the 2011 and 2017 versions of this Protocol remain available for download:

Performance criteria for each of the indicators in the Protocol state that, to obtain a TSM Level A or better, specified elements must be developed and implemented “in conformance” with the Tailings Guide or the OMS Guide. MAC has developed a Table of Conformance to identify elements of the Tailings Guide and the OMS Guide to be implemented to be “in conformance”. Use of the Table, and the interpretation of how conformance is determined are described in the Protocol.

The 2019 and 2017 versions of the Table of Conformance are both available for download: