How Can We Solve the Waste Problem? Mine Waste Initiative: Vancouver Session

The Brumadinho mining dam collapse that occurred on January 25, 2019 in Brazil killed at least 224 people. This collapse has proven to be one of the deadliest mine disasters in recent history. This calamity clearly shows that there is no better time than now to take urgent action.

In December 2018 CIRDI, in partnership with UN Environment and GRID-Arendal, organized a two-day workshop entitled, “Mine Waste Initiative – Vancouver Session.” This workshop explored the building blocks for a roadmap aimed at improving integrated mine waste and tailings facilities management locally and globally. Workshop participants – representing industry, government and academia – discussed the importance of finding solutions to misconceptions about mining, ineffective governance and regulation, poor management and communication around mine waste management, and knowledge gaps. During the workshop, participants worked together to creatively develop the beginning of a roadmap needed to make zero failures a reality.

The Mine Waste Initiative took place at the University of British Columbia. Participants included representatives from BHP, Teck Resources, the Stava Foundation, the African Mineral Development Centre, the Minerals Commission of Ghana, the Mining Association of Canada, FLSmidt, Arrowblade Consulting, Murdoch University, and KPMG Australia. Overall, the Vancouver Session engaged 20 participants who brought a depth of understanding, commitment and foresight to this topic area. Together they developed a plan for activities that need to take place immediately and collectively in support of the common good: to protect public health and safety, alleviate environmental damages, and ensure the sustainability of social and economic benefits resulting from mining, among others.

The UN Environment’s report, A Roadmap for improved mine waste management,’ details the outcomes of this initiative and summarizes the workshop results. The report focuses predominantly on issues associated with mine waste storage facilities and their associated failures, and provides recommendations and comments that apply to mine waste more broadly.

Despite good intentions and investment in improved practices, leaks and collapse still occur. When such tragic events happen, they can destroy entire communities and livelihoods, thereby remaining one of the biggest mining-related environmental threats. A Roadmap for improved mine waste management, brings up important thoughts and ideas in relation to actions for effective mine waste management in the future.

If you are an interested stakeholder who is willing to participate in developing a common vision for change in the mining industry worldwide, please contact Priya Bala-Miller, Director, Partnerships and Program Development at priya.bala-miller@cirdi.ca.

Published on May 3, 2019.

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