Mar 5, 2021

Tailings dams: report highlights upstream risks

tailings dams
mining
Scientific Reports
Daniel Brightmore
2 min
Waihi tailings facility, NZ
Scientific Reports compiled a database with information on tailings facilities disclosed by extractive companies at the request of institutional investo...

Tailings facility failures represent a significant risk to the environment and communities globally, but until now little data was available on the global distribution of risks and characteristics of facilities to ensure proper governance.

The most widespread type of dam used to store mine waste is nearly twice as unstable as the average tailings facility, a global study has revealed. It highlights the risk of so-called ‘upstream’ construction techniques which some countries have banned.

Concern over tailings dams intensified after the deadly collapse of Vale’s Brumadinho upstream facility in January 2019.

Some 10% of all the facilities surveyed had reported a stability issue, the authors found, but that figure jumped to 18.3% for active upstream facilities, reports Reuters.

The volume of mine waste worldwide is projected to grow 26% over the next five years according to company disclosures analysed in the study published in Scientific Reports, one of Nature's open-access journal s.

The disclosures requested by the Church of England and Swedish Council on Ethics cover 1,743 tailings facilities, representing an average 36% of current global commodity production.

A new global tailings standard launched last year stopped short of banning upstream dams.

But investors, banks, insurers and local communities are unlikely to support their construction given elevated risks, said Adam Matthews of the Church of England Pensions Board and one of the study’s authors.

“I think you’ll find enormous scrutiny,” he said.

Around one-fifth of dams built in the last decade have been upstream, the study found.

Cheaper to build, they are more dangerous because their walls are constructed over a base of muddy mining waste rather than on solid ground. Chile, Peru and Brazil have banned the structures.

But globally, the use of alternative technologies such as ‘dry stack’, or de-watering, to reduce risks has stayed static between 3% and 6% since 1970, the study found.

“For a long time the mining industry has been able to treat tailings as an externality and the incentives weren’t there to take up innovations to manage tailings differently,” said Daniel Franks, lead author and professor at the University of Queensland.

“Now that it’s become a strong concern for investors, governments, and society, there’s a real opportunity to embrace reform.”

The study called for further investor engagement with non-responsive companies, including privately-owned or state-owned miners.

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May 10, 2021

Ma'aden celebrates 5th anniversary of Vision 2030

Ma'aden
Sustainability
Vision 2030
phosphate mining
3 min
Saudia Arabia's Ma'aden highlights key achievements since the Vison 2030 launch and continued growth for its 'mine to market' aluminium value chain

Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden), one of the world’s fastest-growing global mining companies, celebrates the fifth anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. The Kingdom’s mining champion highlights key achievements since the Vision 2030 launch and plans that reflect its commitment to the Kingdom’s social and economic development.

Vision 2030

The Kingdom has implemented significant incentive programs and announced major reforms in the last five years to accelerate the development of the mining industry as a strategic pillar of the Saudi economy, including the recently launched mining investment law to attract investors and pave the way for the full utilisation of Saudi Arabia’s mineral resources, which are estimated to be worth more than $1.3trn. This goes in line with the objectives of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP), one of the most important programs for achieving Vision 2030.

Ma'aden

Ma’aden has kept its projects across a range of commodities moving on a strong growth trajectory since 2016. The company has expanded its investment portfolio, refinanced key projects, and made its first international acquisition, laying the foundation for future growth and new investment opportunities in the Saudi mining industry. Despite some challenges in 2020 due to COVID-19, Ma’aden managed to maintain its agility and remained focused on its goal to become a global Saudi mining giant, while adhering to the highest standards of health, safety, and environment.

Located on the east coast of Saudi Arabia, Ras Al-Khair Industrial City jumpstarted the mining industry development in Saudi Arabia, leveraging the country’s strategic location in connecting three continents. In November 2016, Ras Al-Khair Industrial City was further expanded and connected via railway to Ma’aden’s bauxite mine in Qassim and phosphate mine in Al Jalamid, making it a cornerstone of the Kingdom’s mineral and metal production and export industries. 

Aluminium

Ma’aden’s integrated ‘mine to market’ aluminium value chain is the largest in the Middle East and one of the largest in the world, with investments over $11bn. Aluminium products of the highest international standards are sold to both domestic and global markets, encouraging the development of additional downstream aluminium-based industries in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries. Operations are centered around the largest and most efficient vertically integrated aluminium complex in the world, in Ras Al Khair Industrial City, which also houses sulfur and phosphate production facilities.

Phosphate

Intending to capture the full value of Saudi Arabia’s significant phosphate reserves and develop new mining and mineral activities, in 2018, Ma’aden celebrated the inauguration of the industrial city of Wa’ad Al Shamal by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul Aziz. Wa’ad Al Shamal is a world-class industrial and mining city in the Northern Borders region of Saudi Arabia. This phosphate super hub will continue to grow with Ma’aden’s latest phosphate megaproject, which is primed to increase phosphate fertilizer capacity to reach 6 million tonnes, making Ma’aden the world’s third-largest producer of phosphate fertilizer and Saudi Arabia the second largest global exporter.

Meridian

In 2018, Ma’aden also acquired an 85% stake in Meridian, the Mauritius-based fertilizer distribution group, strengthening its position as one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of phosphate fertilizers. This acquisition marked Ma’aden’s first investment outside the Kingdom, in line with the company’s goal to expand globally and significantly contribute to the Kingdom's Vision 2030.

In 2019, Ma’aden commenced construction of the Mansourah and Massarah gold mine, the company’s largest-ever gold project and the Kingdom’s first project to utilize solar power as an energy source. Once operational, the mine and its processing facilities will have a key role in achieving Ma’aden’s target of producing 1 million ounces of gold per year by 2025.

These accomplishments are all due to the steppingstones set by the Saudi Vision 2030, which laid the foundations for creating an attractive environment for local and foreign investments in promising growth sectors and unlocking new ones, in addition to developing remote areas, bringing technologies and knowledge to the Kingdom, establishing specialized and modern industrial cities, and generating diverse job opportunities for Saudi nationals.

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