Our metal and coal assets generate tailings (residues of mineral processing), which are stored in purpose-built tailings storage facilities (TSFs). TSFs are specially designed reservoirs ﬁlled with tailings and water. We remove water through drains or evaporation while the tailings settle, gradually ﬁlling the reservoir. At this point, we cap, seal, and rehabilitate the TSF.
Glencore is committed to responsible management of its tailings facilities to prevent impacts to human health and safety, the environment, communities, cultural heritage, and infrastructure.
We design, construct, operate and close our TSFs to safeguard lives and prevent the risk of environmental impacts. Our focus is on strong technical management and review, governance oversight, stakeholder engagement, transparency, and continuous improvement.
We have a robust governance process and our Group Tailings Storage Facilities Policy aligns with the Global Industry Standard for Tailings Management (GISTM). We are committed to implementing the GISTM and also align the design, operation, and closure of our TSFs with other international leading practices We continually review and strengthen our TSFs management system through our catastrophic hazard evaluation programme.
Our (the TSF Policy) articulates the fundamental elements of our approach and commitment to the safe, responsible, and sustainable management of our TSFs. It commits us to preventing TSF failures through designing, constructing, operating, and closing our TSFs in a responsible manner.
We adhere to leading international standards on TSF management and conduct assurance activities to assess and monitor implementation.
We assess our TSFs against seismic and flooding events, including the impacts of climate change, and we incorporate the outcomes into the design and operation of our TSFs.
We classify the potential consequences of a failure of our TSFs and the controls required for safe management of our facilities.
Monitoring and assurance
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 have management systems and dedicated facilities to dispose of mineral residues while preventing environmental contamination. Through our group-wide dam integrity and safety assurance programme, we require our TSFs to be audited and independently reviewed by Klohn Crippen Berger (KCB), one of the world’s leading experts on integrity and safety of tailing storage facilities.
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.
There are three levels of governance and assurance we require our assets to undertake on TSFs:
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.
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.
Dam safety audits – KCB, one of the world’s leading experts, audits and independently reviews 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 independent verification audits.
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.
As technologies and knowledge evolves, we investigate and, when possible, implement new approaches to the management of our TSFs. For example, we are migrating some of our existing facilities to ﬁlter press tailings, which uses dewatering technologies to produce relatively ‘dry’ tailings that allow for stable and stackable storage. However, dry tailings are not suited to all environments and we continue to consider options to improve our TSFs management.
In 2020, we entered into a global agreement with a leading global provider to extend satellite monitoring to over half of our facilities prioritising on a basis of consequence classification. This is currently the largest industry agreement to date for specific satellite monitoring of TSFs.
Satellite monitoring measures our TSFs’ surface movements every 11 days, currently the maximum available frequency for this type data collection. The data is available via a cloud-based platform, ensuring its continuous availability and the ability for rapid decision making in the event of unexpected movements, as well as supporting independent oversight by our corporate and external auditors.
While the focus of the satellite monitoring programme is our TSFs, some of our assets use the data to supplement other terrestrial monitoring techniques for their operational activities, such as open pits, waste piles and areas prone to subsidence.
Global industry standard on tailings management
In 2020, the Global Tailings Review, made up of the ICMM, UN Environmental Programme and Principles for Responsible Investment, published a new Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (the GISTM).
Glencore participated in the development of the GISTM through our membership of the ICMM. On 5 August 2020, all ICMM members, including Glencore, committed to implement the GISTM. All of our TSFs with “Extreme” or “Very high” potential consequences will be in conformance with the GISTM by 5 August 2023. All of our other TSFs not in a state of safe closure will be in conformance with the GISTM by 5 August 2025.
ICMM has provided a clear indication of this commitment here and further information on its members’ TSFs is available here.
We welcomed the opportunity to participate in the Investor Mining & Tailings Safety Initiative from its outset. In June 2019, we were an early responder to the Initiative’s initial request for information concerning TSFs.
In March 2022, we updated the information in our TSF database to reflect status of our TSF portfolio, including the divestment of assets. We now report on 107 TSFs (103 excluding non-operated joint ventures), down from the previously disclosed 122 TSFs in 2021.
We have also included additional explanatory notes to show our progress on key dam upgrades and where we have further strengthened our management systems.
Tailings Manager Academy (TMA)
We have established an online Tailings Manager Academy (TMA) that builds on our employees’ existing knowledge and skills and increases their capacity for decision-making on the design, construction, operation, monitoring and maintenance of TSFs.
The TMA has been tailored to three different levels for ranging from operators and technicians to responsible persons and engineers to dam owners, managers, and accountable executives. For our Responsible Persons there are twelve learning modules including technical, governance, environment, closure, emergency-response planning, and stakeholder engagement aspects.
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, throughout the asset’s lifecycle.
Our local engagement activities support the building of the community’s knowledge about how we manage our tailings facilities and, where appropriate, they support stakeholder participation in decisions that may have a bearing on public safety. Our assets implement local level complaints and grievance processes, where citizens can raise concerns or complaints in relation to TSFs and our teams will investigate and seek to resolve them in a timely and consultative manner.
We require our assets to develop and maintain emergency preparedness and response plans. Our Guideline for Tailings Storage Facility Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans (the EPRP Guideline) was developed in concert with the Mines Rescue Pty Ltd and aligns with the requirements set out by the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management. The EPRP Guideline provides information on managing emergency response to a TSF failure event that presents a risk to people and the environment, including the mitigation of risks in the preparations for a TSF failure.
Assets communicate their emergency preparedness and response plans 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.
When we decommission and close our TSFs, we require that assets put in place appropriate measures for physical and geochemical stability and that the rehabilitation of the land for appropriate post-mining land use in a manner that enhances stability. Where a landform for a closed TSF is not possible, closure plans must address physical stability and the control of geochemical stability in a manner that protects the environment.
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 programme includes closed assets.