Tailings Storage Facilities (TSFs)

Our Tailings Storage Facilities (TSFs)

Most of the waste that Glencore generates is broken rock, tailings, slag and other mineral residues from the processing of ore and ore concentrates. Our assets have management systems and dedicated facilities to dispose of mineral residues while preventing environmental contamination. Through our group-wide dam integrity and safety assurance program, we require our TSFs to be audited by Klohn Crippen Berger  (KCB), one of the world’s leading experts on integrity and safety of tailing storage facilities. 

Risk management

Dam failure is the greatest risk for our TSFs, as disclosed in our Annual Report. Our dam safety assurance programme assesses our tailings and water dams in line with international leading practice. 

Our assets are required to assess natural phenomena such as extreme flooding and seismic events, as well as operational criteria, and incorporate these factors into their TSF designs. Since 2016, our corporate dam integrity and safety assurance programme has detailed our approach towards the group-wide review on the integrity of our TSFs. This involves an assessment against more than 100 dam safety and governance leading practice criteria.

Our approach to managing tailings storage facilities

There are three levels of governance and assurance we require our assets to undertake on TSFs.  

1.    Regular surveillance – assets are expected to monitor  their TSFs on an ongoing basis using piezometers, slope monitoring and other equipment, with results assessed by the management team of that asset.
2.    Dam safety inspections (DSI) – external engineers carry out periodic DSI for operating assets and closed TSFs. A DSI evaluates and observes potential deficiencies in a TSF’s current and past condition, performance and operation; DSI findings are typically overseen by the asset management team.
3.    Dam safety audits – KCB, one of the world’s leading experts, audits the integrity and safety of our TSFs.  The results of these audits are reported to Glencore’s senior management and the HSEC Committee of our Board of Directors, and findings are followed up through regular independent verification audits.

The different levels of assurance are undertaken on the basis of national regulations; as well as, where appropriate, criteria aligned with international guidelines from the Canadian Dam Association, the Australian National Commission of Large Dams and the International Commission of Large Dams

In addition, where appropriate, assets conduct periodic dam safety reviews, which include reviewing maintenance, surveillance and monitoring, failure impact assessments, emergency management procedures, public safety and environmental management.  The results are shared with asset and department management, and reviewed as part of the dam safety audits.

Tailings Management Protocol

During 2017, we rolled out our group-wide Tailings Storage Facility Management Protocol. We developed the protocol in consultation with internal and external experts, in alignment with the recommendations of the International Council on Mining & Metal’s (ICMM), an industry body of which Glencore is a member.

We regularly review, strengthen and update our approach to TSF management.  Following the catastrophic failures at Fundão and Brumadinho, we have reviewed and strengthened our TSF management systems, and will be updating our TSF protocol to drive alignment with new international leading practices.   We also assess TSFs for risks relating to climate change and related changes in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

We recognise the need to establish standards and guidelines that address our stakeholder concerns relating to TSFs. Through our membership of ICMM, we are participating in their development of an international standard for TSFs. 

We welcome the opportunity to participate in the Investor Mining & Tailings Safety Initiative and have responded to the Initiative’s request for information concerning TSFs. In response to this request, we have developed a database of our TSFs, which is accessible here , accompanied by a statement  from our CEO. 

Engaging with communities

We require our assets to undertake proactive, targeted stakeholder and community engagement across a broad range of operational topics, including TSFs where appropriate. 

We expect our assets to develop and maintain emergency preparedness and response plans that are communicated with relevant stakeholders. Where appropriate, assets may also engage with local and regional emergency response services in scenario planning and practice exercises.

Decommissioning and closed assets

As the mine approaches the end of its life, closure plans are developed, which include the decommissioning of TSFs. These closure plans are developed in accordance with local and international guidelines and are approved through the regulatory process where required.  We are also in the process of reviewing the latest guidance from ICMM in relation to mine closure plans.

Following closure, TSFs are inspected and monitored by dedicated teams on a regular basis. Our sites are required to have operational manuals that include instructions on actions in case of an abnormality, emergency response, monitoring, etc.  Our corporate dam safety assurance program include closed assets.