New research shows mining industry response to Brumadinho still weak

Research Insight

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New research by the Responsible Mining Foundation (RMF) reveals that more than one year after the Brumadinho tailings disaster in Brazil that killed 270 people, the mining industry is still dragging its heels on the step-change measures required to prevent such catastrophic tailings failures in the future.

The recently released RMI Report 2020 reveals that while investor-led action, triggered by the Brumadinho disaster, has resulted in improved transparency on companies’ tailings storage facilities (TSF), the vast majority of companies are still unable to demonstrate that they are reviewing how effectively they are managing TSF-related risks and taking responsive actions where necessary. And critically, very few mine sites show evidence of having informed local communities about what to do in the case of a tailings-related emergency.

A new global standard on tailings management, currently being finalised, is a welcome initiative but could be significantly strengthened to become a real game-changer in terms of tailings safety. The Responsible Mining Foundation strongly recommends that the standard sets out clear requirements on the following points:

– Public disclosure of key information at the level of individual mine sites about TSF management and safety for all stakeholders, especially investors and financiers, governments and local communities and workers.

– Engagement with local stakeholders on issues of tailings safety and in the design and testing of emergency preparedness plans.

– Strong mitigation measures to address the risks posed by existing TSF, including where necessary the decommissioning and removal of high-risk structures.

– Broader accountability for tailings safety across senior management and Boards of Directors.

– Respect for Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as mandatory where new or expanded TSF are located in areas with Indigenous Peoples, and recommendation to expand the principle of FPIC to other potentially-impacted communities.

– Ban on lake, riverine and marine disposal of tailings, in line with the growing momentum among international banks and multilateral lenders to stop these destructive tailings disposal methods.

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Responsible Mining Foundation

The Responsible Mining Foundation (RMF) is an independent research organisation that encourages continuous improvement in in responsible mining across the industry by developing tools and frameworks, sharing public-interest data and enabling informed and constructive engagement between mining companies and other stakeholders.

As an independent foundation, RMF does not accept funding or other contributions from the minerals and metals industry.