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Rio Tinto releases interactive map of tailings facilities in alignment with GISTM requirements

Rio Tinto disclosed detailed information on 14 of its global tailings facilities and their progress towards conformance with the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM).

These tailings facilities are those rated Very High or Extreme under GISTM classifications, based on the highest potential consequences in the extremely unlikely event of a failure.

Since the tragic failure of the tailings facility at Brumadinho in Brazil in 2019, the entire industry has been working to improve the way we manage tailings facilities. Responsible tailings management is critical to ensure the safety of our people and communities and to protect the environment. It is fundamental for our business and social license. We have made considerable progress since August 2020 towards conformance with the GISTM. We have completed most of the work and have detailed plans to complete outstanding items.

GISTM has meant a step change in how the industry manages its tailings facilities. Good tailings management is also about transparent partnership, and we have been working with the local communities near our facilities to increase awareness of our management practices and how we can best work together to continue to keep people and the environment safe from harm.

—Rio Tinto Chief Technology Officer Mark Davies

The Brumadinho disaster occurred on 25 January 2019 when a tailings dam (Dam I) at Vale’s Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine Brumadinho (MG) Brazil collapsed.

Dam I of the Córrego do Feijão mine received the disposal of iron ore tailings from Vale’s production in Brumadinho. The dam was inactive (it was no longer receiving tailings), there was no lake present and no other operational activity was in progress. At that time, the dam’s de-characterization project was under development. The dam was built in 1976 by Ferteco Mineração (a company acquired by Vale on 27 April 2001) using the upstream heightening method. The dam height was 86 meters and its crest length was 720 meters. The tailings occupied an area of 249.5 thousand square meters and the disposed volume was 11.7 million cubic meters.

The collapse of the dam left 270 dead and ravaged nearby forests, rivers and communities.

The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (the Standard) launched in 2020 to establish the first global standard on tailings management that can be applied to existing and future tailings facilities, wherever they are and whoever operates them.

The standard was developed through an independent process—the Global Tailings Review (GTR)—which was co-convened in March 2019 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) following the tragic tailings facility collapse at Brumadinho.


Rio Tinto boron tailings facility

Rio Tinto operates a diverse portfolio of 98 tailings facilities at various stages of the tailings facility lifecycle, including tailings contained within engineered earthen embankments and tailings deposited into previously mined open pits. Some tailings facilities consist of embankments constructed in a single phase; others have been raised several times over their active life to increase tailings storage capacity.

Information about the tailings facilities that Rio Tinto operates can be found on the interactive tailings disclosure map.


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