The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM)
The GISTM consists of 6 topic areas, 15 principles and 77 requirements that are focused on reducing the risk of a tailings disaster.
There are only 9 months left for all tailings facilities rated as ‘Extreme’ or ‘Very high’ Consequence of Failure to be in conformance with the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM) by August 2023. Do your tailings facilities fall into one of these categories? What will it take to be in conformance with the GISTM?
This month, Insight Terra will be reviewing Principles 2 and 3, under the second topic of “Integrated Knowledge Base.” These principles discuss creating and using a knowledge base for management of a tailings facility through analysis and updates of the assessments throughout the lifecycle of the facility.
Develop and maintain an interdisciplinary knowledge base to support safe tailings management throughout the tailings facility lifecycle, including closure.
Requirements under Principle 2
There are 4 requirements under Principle 2, which discuss what information should be in the knowledge base, how often it should be updated, and who should have access to it.
In Requirement 2.2, some of the data that should be included in the knowledge base are data on “climate, geomorphology, geology, geochemistry, hydrology and hydrogeology (surface and groundwater flow and quality), geotechnical, and seismicity. “ These ground truth data points can all be tracked, monitored, and aggregated by the Insight Platform.
Whilst most of the knowledge should be updated at least every 5 years, Requirement 2.2 states that “the physical and chemical properties of the tailings shall be characterised and updated regularly to account for variability in ore properties and processing.” Tailings Insight, built on the Insight Platform, can provide real-time monitoring and analysis of those physical properties. Our platform also has the ability to incorporate external chemical test results so that data of both properties can be aggregated and exported together into the Knowledge Base, making regular updates easier and more efficient.
Requirement 2.3 delves into “a breach analysis for the tailings facility using a methodology that considers credible failure modes, site conditions, and the properties of the slurry.” Any analysis done on a tailings facility will need accurate current and historical data, which can be captured and provided through the Insight Platform. In particular, when “flowable materials […] are present at tailings facilities, […]” then “…the results should include estimates of the physical area impacted by a potential failure, flow arrival times, depth and velocities, and depth of material deposition”. The requirements underscore the complexity of managing tailings facilities, especially given the wide range of monitoring data required, and the multiple sensors and sources from which it comes. The Insight Platform’s sensor-agnostic capability can help with making sense of all this disparate data, and in turn, make the development and documentation of a breach analysis and the subsequent knowledge base more efficient.
Use all elements of the knowledge base - social, environmental, local economic and technical - to inform decisions throughout the tailings facility lifecycle, including closure.
Requirements under Principle 3
There are 4 requirements under Principle 3, which discuss continually updating and using the knowledge base for “Adaptive Management,” for additional “multi-criteria alternatives analysis,” and for assessing and mitigating “the social, environmental and local economic impact” based on changes to the tailings facility.
Adaptive Management, also known as adaptive resource management or adaptive environmental assessment and management, is a structured, iterative process of robust decision making in the face of uncertainty, with the aim of reducing uncertainty over time via system monitoring.
The analysis in Requirement 3.2 is mainly to minimise risks to people and the environment and should be reviewed by the "Independent Tailings Review Board (ITRB) or a senior independent technical reviewer." The mitigation management discussed in Requirement 3.3 and referenced in Requirement 3.4 foreshadows the fifth topic of Emergency Response & Long-Term Recovery. The key factor in the fourth requirement is updating these assessments in the knowledge base when there has been a material change. This does require constant monitoring with validated data to know when it is the right time to make changes.
Tailings facilities and climate change
Requirements in both Principles 2 and 3 refer to climate change and the risks it poses to tailings facilities. Climate change, in particular the increasing frequency of extreme rainfall events, is a formidable risk and a considerable danger to maintaining safety around a tailings facility. The requirements highlight how uncertainties, like climate change, can affect sites even in a state of closure, where there are fewer, or even no people on location to monitor, and remote monitoring is the only choice.
A knowledge base and the Insight Platform
Principles 2 and 3 focus on creating and using a knowledge base for the management of a tailings facility. The organization, accuracy and transparency of the data and information in this knowledge base will be crucial to informing decisions about the tailings facility. Not only does the Insight Platform validate ingested data, but it also has a unique ability to integrate with multiple external systems to provide accurate and transparent data for risk management and mitigation.