For over 20 years the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) has led the way in responsible tailings management, a significant focus of the association’s work, including through its Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) program, specifically its Tailings Management Protocol. TSM provides an established system for credible performance measurement and reporting, including rigorous standards to help ensure that tailings facilities are being responsibly managed. Effective tailings management is rightly being prioritized now more than ever before to ensure that stakeholders, communities surrounding mine sites, investors and the general public can have confidence in how mining operations are being run. Transparency in this aspect of mining is critically important and to that end MAC ensures all TSM results are made publicly available in its annual TSM Progress Report.
How does TSM Compare to the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (the Standard)?
The requirements presented in the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (the Standard), first introduced in 2020, have been mapped to the current Level A requirements for tailings management, water stewardship and community relationships already established in TSM.
The TSM Tailings Management Protocol, TSM Indigenous and Community Relationships Protocol and TSM Water Stewardship Protocol are very closely aligned with the Standard in all aspects related to governance, community relationships and water stewardship, while there are aspects of the Standard relating to the design and construction of new tailings facilities that TSM does not fully address. The mapping exercise referred to above has led to some refinements to TSM that are now captured in the latest version of A Guide to the Management of Tailings Facilities. MAC is also expanding the application of the TSM Tailings Management Protocol to closed and inactive sites.
In addition, MAC has approved a new TSM Climate Change Protocol that includes requirements related to climate change adaptation, and a new Guide on Climate Change Adaptation for the Mining Sector. This new protocol and guide will further improve TSM alignment with those requirements in the Standard that refer to the potential impacts of climate change.
TSM meets and exceeds the Standard in several respects:
- The Table of Conformance provides more detailed and rigorous performance measurement expectations. For example, the Standard has three high-level requirements to developing and implementing an OMS manual, whereas the Table of Conformance identifies more than 120 items to be addressed to be in conformance with the TSM requirement to develop and implement an OMS manual at Level A.
- The tailings management component of TSM reflects years of implementation experience, including input from a 2015 independent review.
- The Indigenous and Community Relationships Protocol reflects almost 20 years of implementation experience and takes a more comprehensive approach to identifying and addressing human and community rights and benefits.
- TSM has an established assurance system and members have been measuring, reporting and assuring their TSM performance since 2006.
Good governance, including a management systems approach, plays an essential role in responsible tailings management and preventing catastrophic failures. TSM addresses tailings management governance in a much more detailed and comprehensive manner than the Standard, providing a more thorough foundation to help ensure good governance and informed decision-making throughout the life cycle.
For those aspects related to design and construction, which TSM does not fully address, MAC and its members rely upon the internationally recognized and respected Canadian Dam Association (CDA) Safety Guidelines and Tailings Dam Bulletins, where such expertise best resides. The CDA is currently undertaking a review of its guidelines to identify opportunities for alignment with the Standard.
How the TSM Tailings Management Protocol Works
Adopting and implementing TSM has significant advantages for achieving the goal of responsible tailings management. The tailings management component of TSM provides detailed guidance and a comprehensive performance measurement tool to support implementation.
Implementation of the TSM Tailings Management Protocol is supported by:
- A Guide to the Management of Tailings Facilities (the Tailings Guide) which provides detailed guidance on governance and a management systems approach to the tailings management, as well as setting performance objectives, managing risk, and implementing third-party oversight.
- Developing an Operation, Maintenance, and Surveillance Manual for Tailings and Water Management Facilities (the OMS Guide) which provides guidance on the development and implementation of site-specific OMS activities which are essential to the day-to-day responsible management of tailings.
- Table of Conformance which identifies elements in the Tailings Guide and OMS Guide that must be implemented to meet the performance criteria described in the Protocol.
MAC is Committed to Continual Improvement
MAC has committed to reviewing and updating the tailings management component of TSM to help ensure that it continues to reflect and set the benchmark for best practices for tailings management. The latest updates, completed in March 2021, include refinements that further align TSM and the Standard, while also incorporating additional improvements. MAC is also undertaking more comprehensive updates over the next year. To view a full comparative table of TSM’s requirements vis a vis the Standard’s, click here.
Major updates to TSM protocols are phased in to allow facilities time to adapt their systems to new requirements. Most facilities listed below are reported as using the 2017 version of the TSM Tailings Management Protocol because this version was still in use in 2019, the most recent year for which performance data is available. In 2020, facilities began reporting internally on the 2019 version of the TSM Tailings Management Protocol and will report publicly on the 2019 version in 2021.
|Company||Facility||Version of TSM Tailings Management Protocol being utilized|
|Agnico Eagle Mines||Goldex||2017|
|Agnico Eagle Mines||Kittila||2017|
|Agnico Eagle Mines||LaRonde||2017|
|Agnico Eagle Mines||Meadowbank||2017|
|Agnico Eagle Mines||Pinos Altos||2017|
|Cameco Corporation||Key Lake Operations||2017|
|Canadian Natural Resources Limited||Albian Sands||2017|
|Canadian Natural Resources Limited||Horizon||2017|
|De Beers Canada Inc.||Gahcho Kue Mine||2017|
|De Beers Canada Inc.||Victor Mine||2017|
|Dominion Diamonds||EKATI Diamond Mine||2017|
|First Quantum Minerals Limited||Copper Range Company (Closed Site)||2017|
|First Quantum Minerals Limited||Norbec (Closed Site)||2017|
|First Quantum Minerals Limited||Samatosum Mine (Closed Site)||2017|
|First Quantum Minerals Limited||Sturgeon Lake (Closed Site)||2017|
|First Quantum Minerals Limited||Winston Lake (Closed Site)||2017|
|Glencore Copper||Horne Smelter||2017|
|Glencore Nickel||Raglan Mine||2017|
|Glencore Nickel||Sudbury Operations||2017|
|Glencore Zinc||Kidd Operations||2017|
|Hudbay Minerals Inc.||Constancia (SABU)||2017|
|Hudbay Minerals Inc.||Hudson Bay Mining||2017|
|New Gold||New Afton||2017|
|Rio Tinto||Diavik Diamond Mine||2017|
|Rio Tinto||Labrador City||2017|
|Stornoway Diamonds||Renard Mine||2017|
|Suncor Energy||Oil Sands Facility – Base Plant||2017|
|Syncrude Canada Ltd.||Syncrude Canada Ltd.||2019|
|Teck Resources Limited||Cardinal River Operations||2019|
|Teck Resources Limited||Elkview Operations||2017|
|Teck Resources Limited||Fording River Operations||2017|
|Teck Resources Limited||Greenhills Operations||2019|
|Teck Resources Limited||Highland Valley Operations||2017|
|Teck Resources Limited||Line Creek Operations||2017|