What is the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative?
Following the recent tailings dam failures, The Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative was established by a group of institutional investors active in the extractive industries representing more than $13.1 trillion in assets under management. Governed through a Steering Committee chaired by the Church of England Pensions Board and the Swedish Council of Ethics of the AP Funds, the group has called upon 727 extractive mining companies to disclose information in relation to their tailings storage facilities to form an online database.
How many companies have disclosed information about their TSFs?
As of the 20th of December 2019, 46 per cent of companies contacted responded to the request. 40 of the top 50 mining companies have made disclosures which has resulted in information about thousands of individual tailings dams being made public on company websites. All 23 of 23 publicly owned companies that are members of the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM) responded and fully disclosed information about their TSFs.
How many tailings dams have had stability issues?
Company disclosures to investors have revealed that 10% (166 out of 1,635) of the tailings dams reported to have had stability issues in their history.
Total number of tailings dams submitted (not including India) – 1805
- Total number minus duplicates (companies reported the same tailings storage facility): 1635
- Number active dams: 667
- Number of operating companies: 289
- Total volume of tailings in storage facilities: 45 billion m3
Dam Raising Types:
- Number of downstream construction: 523
- Number of upstream construction: 635
- Number of centerline construction: 121
- Number of dry stacking storage: 66
- Number of in pit storage: 53
- Maximum dam height reported: 265m (Peru)
- Number reported to have stability issue during lifetime: 166
Number of Dams by Continent:
- Australia/ Oceania: 272
- Asia: 226
- Africa: 266
- North America: 498
- South America: 279
- Europe (Transcontinental euro/Asian countries were counted as Europe): 91
Commenting on the disclosures Professor Elaine Baker said:
“This is the first time that those outside of the mining industry have had access to a range of information on many of the world’s largest tailings dams – including where they are located, construction method, current storage volume, risk characterization and history of stability reporting. It is essential that investors and wider society understand the risks associated with these structures and where there have been issues related to their stability. As a result of the intervention by investors, the database we have under construction will support an informed dialogue with mining companies and governments about how to address the ongoing risks around tailings dams.”
Adam Matthews, Director of Ethics for the Church of England Pensions Board and Co-Chair of the Mining & Tailings Safety Initiative said:
“Tailings dams are amongst some of the largest engineered structures in the world and we have seen the catastrophic consequences earlier this year in Brazil when they collapse. Following the investors disclosure request we can now see that 10% of tailings dams have had some level of issue related to the stability of the dam. Whilst assurances have been given that these issues have been addressed, this underscores why investors, banks and insurers will be continuing to work together on this issue until such time we have confidence in a new global standard being implemented and that the highest risk dams have been identified and operate to this standard or are removed. We note that many companies already operate to a very high standard as evidenced by some of the disclosures, but this is not universal across the sector and dams are continuing to fail, putting lives and the environment at risk.”
John Howchin, Secretary General of the Council on Ethics of the Swedish National Pension Funds and Co-Lead of the Mining & Tailings Safety Initiative, commented:
“Even with these disclosures we still do not have the full picture. Whilst many of the major mining companies have responded to our request, just over half are yet to disclose to us. Investors will be re-doubling our efforts and allocating lead engagers to those companies and using the stewardship tools available to us to secure these disclosures. There is simply no excuse to not disclose on a material risk, that as owners of these companies, we need to urgently understand. It is clear that investors’ patience with non-disclosing companies will not remain for much longer.”
Carola van Lamoen, Head of Active Ownership at asset manager Robeco:
“There’s a clear need for action in this industry, and we’re glad to see that so far a significant amount of companies has already responded to our request. There are still companies who have either not responded, or don’t meet the standard yet. We are working on a collaborative investor engagement program to ensure that non-responding companies are engaged with systematically until such time that they have disclosed to us.”
- The first intervention of investors was to call for a new global standard of tailings management. At the Summit, investors were updated on the progress in the development of the standard by the jointly convened (co-convened by ICMM, PRI and UNEP) independent Review led by former Swiss Environment Minister Professor Bruno Oberle. (For further information https://www.churchofengland.org/investor-mining-tailings-safety-initiative)
- The second intervention by investors was to identify, through the disclosure request of 726 companies, which companies did have tailings facilities and which did not. The Summit reviewed Professor Baker’s independent analysis of the disclosures that have been received to date.
- The third intervention was announced at the Summit in the formation of a Global Tailings Database that will take the disclosures and provide them in a publicly available portal ahead of the anniversary of the Brumadinho disaster.
Company Disclosure Responses to dateOf the 726 companies contacted by investors the breakdown of responders to date are:
- 310 responded (representing 43% of the companies contacted)
- 179 confirmed they did not have tailings facilities (representing 25%)
- 93 confirmed they did have tailings facilities
- 38 companies have not yet published their disclosure on a website or have asked for extra time to complete their disclosure
- 416 did not respond (representing 57%)
- 37 out of the top 50 largest mining companies in the world responded
- 76% of the top 50 largest mining companies by market capitalisation responded
- 69% of the industry by market capitalisation responded
- All 22 out of 22 publicly listed members of the International Council of Mining & Metals responded
- A key outcome of the survey is the need to refine the disclosure request to enable standardisation of responses/terminology etc. across industry as the database evolves and to capture tailings operated by private listed companies and governments
Find out more about Decipher OR request a demoUseful links:
- Speak to our team for a free demo of our Tailings Monitoring solution
- See how our solutions help manage industry stakeholder engagement and operator and regulator compliance requirements here