GRID-Arendal, the Norwegian environmental organisation, has launched the world’s first publicly-accessible global database of mine tailings storage facilities.
The Global Tailings Portal was built by GRID-Arendal as part of the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative, spearheaded by the Church of England Pensions Board and the Swedish National Pension Funds' Council on Ethics, with support from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Elaine Baker, a senior expert at GRID-Arendal and geosciences professor with the University of Sydney in Australia, commented: “This portal could save lives. The whole purpose of the portal is to provide transparency to the mining community, including institutional investors, regulators, owners and mine operators.”
Portal users can download data on more than 1,700 tailings dams around the world, or sort and view them by location, company, dam type, height, tailings volume, and risk classification, among other variables.
“Ultimately, GRID-Arendal and its partners hope the portal inspires innovations and improvements in the mining industry’s tailings-storage practices. They also want governments to be able to use the data to make science-based decisions to better regulate the industry and improve public safety,” Baker added.
GRD-Arendal hopes that as the project continues, more mining companies will disclose information that can be added to the portal, and public pressure will build for companies to be increasingly transparent about their waste production and management.
The portal project grew out of shareholder activism in response to the 2019 deadly dam collapse in Brumadinho, Brazil. After the disaster, a group of institutional investors led by the Church of England Pensions Board asked 726 of the world’s largest mining companies to disclose detailed information about their tailings dams, and 332 responded, representing almost half of those surveyed. The initiative is now backed by funds with more than $13trn under management.
After the mining companies sent the data to the Church of England, GRID-Arendal’s team stepped in to analyse the information and create the online portal where it can be easily viewed and compared.
The portal project builds on GRID-Arendal’s past work on mine tailing dams, which includes the 2017 report “Mine Tailings Storage: Safety Is No Accident”. That report, co-published by GRID and the UN Environment Programme, called for the creation of an accessible public-interest database of tailings storage facilities.