GRID-Arendal has launched the world’s first publicly accessible global database of mine tailings storage facilities. The database, the Global Tailings Portal, was built by Norway-based GRID-Arendal as part of the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative, which is led by the Church of England Pensions Board and the Swedish National Pension Funds’ Council on Ethics, with support from the UN Environment Program.
The Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative is backed by funds with more than US$13 trillion under management.
Until now, there has been no central database detailing the location and quantity of the mining industry’s liquid and solid waste. There have been numerous failings of tailings dams which have had devastating consequences for surrounding communities.
“This portal could save lives,” said Elaine Baker, senior expert at GRID-Arendal and geosciences professor with the University of Sydney in Australia. “Dams are getting bigger and bigger. Mining companies have found most of the highest-grade ores and are now mining lower-grade ones, which create more waste. With this information, the entire industry can work toward reducing dam failures in the future.”
The database allows users to view detailed information on more than 1,700 tailings dams around the world, categorized by location, company, dam type, height, volume and risk, among other factors.
When GRID-Arendal began in-depth research on mine tailings dams in 2016, very little data was accessible, according to Kristina Thygesen, GRID-Arendal’s program leader for geological resources and member of the team that worked on the portal. In a 2017 report on tailings dams, co-published by GRID and the UN Environment Program, one of the key recommendations was to establish an accessible public-interest database of tailings storage facilities.
“This database brings a new level of transparency to the mining industry, which will benefit regulators, institutional investors, scientific researchers, local communities, the media, and the industry itself,” Thygesen said.
The release of the Global Tailings Portal coincides with the one-year anniversary of the tailings dam collapse in Brumadinho, Brazil, that killed 270 people. After that disaster, a group of institutional investors led by the Church of England Pensions Board asked 726 of the world’s largest mining companies to disclose details about their tailings dams. Many of the companies complied, and the information they released has been incorporated into the database.
The portal can be viewed here: http://tailing.grida.no/