Regulations governing mining operations are specific to national and jurisdictional regulations and local circumstances. While their variation precludes an extensive review in this report, given that regulatory failures and inadequacies contribute to tailings dam failures (Golder and Associates 2016), an international regulatory systems review would be beneficial in improving tailings management.
Tailings Dam failures are a shared responsibility, caused as much by regulatory as management failure. In cases of catastrophic failures, the regulatory system has failed to ensure good design, and to implement, monitor and enforce adequate standards. As ICOLD determined, these failures are frequently human-caused. Regulatory systems with multiple, independent checks are required to ensure standards and detect impending failures.
A regulatory system, for example, should cover the civil works, environmental performance and risk calculations associated with tailings storage facilities. They should also stipulate financial requirements for perpetual management of waste or a requirement for rehabilitation to a level that enables the site to be safely relinquished for reuse for non-mining purposes. While the practical requirements for mine waste planning, treatment, storage, monitoring and management are highly specific to the mine location, some higher-level issues are widely applicable. The figure illustrates an evolution of tailings management, from proponent-driven to a gradual increase in regulations for a more inclusive approach that would reduce risk for all stakeholders.
From collection: Mine Tailings Storage: Safety Is No Accident