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Growing insurance premiums presenting challenges for mining executives

Growing insurance premiums presenting challenges for mining executives


  Tailings storage facilities (TSFs) are integral to almost any mining activity, and while the facilities themselves represent minor economic value compared to the remainder of the operation, due to their toxic, acid-generating potential and the vast volume, a leakage or rupture can have considerable consequences for people, ecosystems and property. Mining companies have long been aware of the risk exposure created by their tailings facilities, understanding that a catastrophic failure may cause loss of life, damage to the environment and, potentially, financial ruin. According to Willis Towers Watson, insurance capacity was generally available and underwriting requirements were modest in nature in that insureds had to disclose relatively little information on their facilities, operational or decommissioned, to their insurers in order to obtain coverage. Until the catastrophic failure of the tailings dam at the in Brumadinho, Brazil which caused a tidal wave of 11.7 million cubic meters of mining waste, killing 270 people, most mining companies had been able to transfer part of their tailings exposure into the insurance market, be it through their General Liability, Property or Environmental Liability Insurance programs. The devastating disaster resulted in the operator posting a USD1.6bn loss in the first quarter of 2019 after they incurred expenses of USD4.5bn related to physical damage, business interruption and decommissioning.

Find out about the 57 major tailings dam failures (2000 – 2020)

Almost overnight, insurers were waking up to the full financial impact that a significant tailings failure can have on their business, resulting in a complete overhaul in underwriting guidelines. In addition, insureds saw substantial premium increases across the board.  

How good governance correlates with insurance premiums

With several major tailings disasters occurring within the last few years, tailings facilities have come under increased scrutiny with stakeholders demanding better governance, paying closer attention to the monitoring and maintenance of dams, and placing a strong focus on the role of independent audits and reports.  According to Dr Caius Priscu, Head of Mineral Residue Facilities at Anglo American, investors, communities, shareholders, nongovernmental organisations, regulators and insurance companies are now looking to the TSFs, and their management through a completely different lens; one that focuses on the need for implementing best available practices (BAP), best applicable technologies (BAT), and how the zero repeats commitment of the mining industry will be achieved.  In particular, investors and insurance companies want to know that their respective activities are protected, and mine operators therefore must do whatever they can to make a risk quantifiable.   Head of International Mining Industry Underwriters, Matthew Johnson, believes that the insurance industry and clients will have to come around to the exposure that these dams present and evolve cover and terms to protect insureds.  
“Mining companies will have to demonstrate they have a grip on the maintenance of both old and new dams if they are to secure cover for tailings storage facilities.” 
Given that insurance premiums have recently significantly increased while the insured value has dropped approximately between $200-$300k per operating facility, insurers can afford to be very selective in where to put their capacity. In order to improve their chances of successful insurance risk transfer of tailings exposures and reducing premiums, mining companies will need to:
  • show that the facility adheres to certain standards and is compliant
  • meets the industry’s public disclosure requests (such as the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative/Church of England)
  • is fulfilling its obligation to do whatever is necessary to avoid an incident from occurring
  • comment proactively on any outstanding recommendations as highlighted within each third party audit or report, including status updates and anticipated timeline to completion
  • include their own in-house geotechnical engineers and tailings management group in the insurance placement process

How to utilise technology to reduce insurance premiums

After hearing the industry’s challenges following the Brumadinho tailings disaster, the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative disclosure request and the launch of the Global Tailings Standard (GTS), Decipher and K2Fly have focused their respectively core technology on designing an integrated TSF cloud solution to help companies improve compliance, monitoring, reporting and disclosure of tailings data.
See what score you get for your TSF management
Drawing on years of experience in mineral resource governance and reporting, Decipher and K2Fly’s solution is helping miners improve investor sentiment and compliance, reporting, operational visibility, and work towards zero-harm.  Armed with the new solution, customers will be able to visually demonstrate their commitment to good governance and implementing standards, ability to maintain both old and new dams, and as a result, provide them with the tools needed to potentially negotiate their insurance premiums down. The solution draws on Decipher’s powerful monitoring capabilities which has been built with Google Earth Engine at its core, and brings a variety of tailings data such as IoT devices, LiDAR, radar, CCTV, drones, inspections and remote sensing into one central location, offering customers an earth observation and visual approach to their TSF monitoring. In addition this, Decipher has advanced tools such as InSAR Displacement which integrates with industry leading providers so that users can more effectively monitor, measure and detect deformation of land surfaces over time and be automatically alerted to customer defined exceedances, driving greater safety precautions and reducing risk.

Download this FREE guide to find out about the available solutions to help implement the Global Standard on Tailings Management


What is the Global Tailings Standard (GTS)?

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) co-convened a Global Tailings Review (GTR) to establish an international standard. On the 5th of August, 2020 they launched the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management to achieve the ultimate goal of zero harm to people and the environment. Underpinned by an integrated approach to tailings management, the Standard aims to prevent catastrophic failures and enhance the safety of tailings facilities across the globe. It embodies a step-change in terms of transparency, accountability and safeguarding the rights of project affected people. The historic agreement which includes six topic areas, 15 principles and 77 auditable requirements, covers the entire tailings storage facility (TSF) lifecycle – from site selection, design and construction, management and monitoring, through to closure and post-closure. Learn more here.

What is the Global Tailings Portal (GTP)?

Launched in January 2020, The Global Tailings Portal is a free, searchable database with detailed information on more than 1,800 mine tailings dams around the world. The GTP was developed on behalf of the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative by GRID-Arendal. It enables users to sort data about tailings dams by location, company, dam type, height, volume, and risk, among other factors.

Effectively monitor your tailings storage facility with Decipher

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Decipher’s Tailings solution is designed to provide you with key data and insights, enabling you to effectively monitor your TSF and your environmental obligations and compliance. Our solution can be securely accessed by industry, regulators, designers and operators involved in the management of TSFs. Decipher offers a comprehensive and functionally rich solution which combines regulatory (Compliance Management Software), mining waste management, stakeholder engagement, environmental monitoring, and environmental management system (EMS) tools to assist with tailings management:
  • View real-time data and receive exceedance alerts
  • Monitor land movement with remote sensing and InSAR datasets
  • Visualise real-time LiDAR data with insights into dam movement
  • Securely store and access all of your tailings data in the one place
  • Upload and reference key documentation
  • Visualise facilities across multiple sites in a single screen on a geospatial map
  • Monitor your facilities with InSAR, LiDAR, DEM and more
  • Capture a wide range of monitoring data and indicators su ch as surface and groundwater, decant pond water levels and quality, and embankment conditions
  • Capture and track obligations and conditions around your licence to operate to manage your key risks and actions
  • Action and task delegation for data collection with reminders
  • Maintain and track environmental monitoring compliance limits and exceedances
  • Manage and engage with all of your stakeholders with one central repository
  • Convert your engagements into actionable outcomes
  • Forecast, plan and track your sites activities using IBM’s Weather data
  • Create corporate report templates and meet requests for data provision from industry groups such as ICMM, Global Tailings Portal, PRI and UNEP
  • Integration capability with third party systems or public portals such as the Global Tailings Portal
Want to find out more about tailings storage monitoring?
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