A New Global Standard Proposition On Tailings Management

Tailing dam disasters are not new to the mining industry. However, after the Brumadinho dam disaster in Brazil in 2019 where 12 million cubic meters of iron waste was accidentally released, killing at least 134 people and irreparably damaging the environment, the Global Tailings Review spearheaded a global industry standard on tailings management initiative. The proposal cites that tailing facility failures are unacceptable, and that operators must have zero tolerance for human injuries or death and should strive for zero harm to the environment.

The topic areas discussed in the proposal include:

  • Topic Area 1:- Project-affected people and communities.
  • Topic Area 2:- Social, environmental, and economic context.
  • Topic Area 3:- Design, construction, operation, maintenance, monitoring, and closing of tailing facilities.
  • Topic Area 4:- Management and governance of facilities.
  • Topic Area 5:- Emergency preparedness, response, and long-term recovery.
  • Topic Area 6:- Public disclosure and access to information.

In addition to the six topic areas, there are also 15 proposed principles that mining operations should follow, as well as 77 auditable requirements.

You can download a PDF of the entire Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management here.

ST Equipment & Technology believes there is one more item that should be added to the extensively comprehensive list. That is to reduce the abundance of tailings produced in the first place. With our tribo-electrostatic separation process, we can capture greater amounts of mined product that would ordinarily end up in a waste stream. This not only provides the opportunity to obtain greater gains from mined resources, it can significantly reduce the amount of waste produced in various processes such as extracting alumina from bauxite.

The current method—called the Bayer process—uses caustic materials, high temperatures, and extreme pressure to separate alumina from surrounding materials in bauxite. The resulting waste stream creates a slurry known as red mud, that must be kept in holding ponds until the toxicity is neutralized.

Our belt separator is an energy efficient system using a dry separation method that can be used prior to the Bayer process to extract more alumina at the beginning. This results in the recovery of valuable natural resources, a reduced need for toxic caustic materials and energy used by the Bayer process, a reduction in the need for a fresh water supply, and a major decrease in the demand for holding ponds.

As global standards continue to change and mining companies are looking for greater efficiencies without compromising on guidelines meant to protect people and the environment, ST Equipment & Technology will be standing ready to provide economically sound solutions.