Mine tailings waste & site closure

Focus areas

In January 2019, the catastrophic tailings dam failure at the Vale-owned Córrego do Feijão mining facility in Brumadinho, Brazil, led to 270 deaths and considerable environmental damage. It is a disaster that should never have happened, and that brought to light the legacy of mining waste, which has for too long been treated as an externality across the sector.

The tragic event drove investors to establish the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative (IMTSI), led by the Church of England Pensions Board and the Swedish Council on Ethics. The coalition of more than 100 investors with more than $20 trillion AUM has sought to work practically with industry, the UN and other stakeholders to develop both the Global Tailings Portal – the world’s first database disclosing the location of tailings dams – and the Global Tailings Standard, which is being adopted by mining companies across the world.

The Initiative has been influential in driving safety in the mining sector and was named 2020 Stewardship Project of the Year by the UN backed Principles for Responsible Investment. Whilst the work of the initiative continues to establish an Independent Global Tailings Institute, key lessons are being translated into the approach of The Global Investor Commission on Mining 2030. Additionally, the issue of waste is a legacy of mining and in many instances will outlast the closure of a mine site. Therefore, how mine sites are closed and the provisions put in place to ensure rehabilitation and support to communities will be a key consideration for The Global Investor Commission on Mining 2030.