Image: Codelco: Taking the lead in complying with the Global Tailings Management Standard

Minerals & Metals3 min read

Codelco: Taking the lead in complying with the Global Tailings Management Standard

CODELCO (Chilean National Copper Corporation)
June 2020 - January 2022

Ausenco worked with the Chilean National Copper Corporation (CODELCO) to assess the governance and safety of its 10 tailings operations across the country. The review and analysis led to the development of new standards and guidelines on Tailings Management, Geotechnical, Water Resources and Tailings Transport; in compliance with the new Global Tailings Management Standard for the Mining Industry (GISTM) 2020.

The Challenge

In the wake of catastrophic tailings deposit failures in the Americas - Mount Polley 2014 (BC Canada), Fundão 2015 (Samarco, Brazil) and Córrego de Feijão 2019 (Brumadinho, Brazil) - construction and safety standards for tailings facilities around the world came under renewed and significant scrutiny. In August 2020, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) joined forces to publish new industry guidelines, known as the Global Tailings Management Standard for the Mining Industry (GISTM).

ICMM member mining companies committed that all of their facilities with "extreme" or "very high" potential consequences will be aligned with the GISTM within 3 years of its publication in August 2023 (and all other facilities within 5 years). Ausenco committed to apply the new guidelines throughout the scope of our contract with CODELCO, conducting specific studies at its tailings facilities across the country to ensure alignment with the GISTM.

The better way

CODELCO is responsible for 10 tailings operations at four of its mining divisions throughout Chile. Since 2019, Ausenco has conducted a variety of assessments at these facilities, including Dam Safety Reviews (DSR), Dam Break Analysis (DBA), Risk Analysis under FMEA methodology, and Independent Hydrogeological Model Reviews (RIMH), developing new corporate guidelines and standards for Corporate Tailings Management (CRM).

By working closely with CODELCO and maintaining open, honest and continuous communication among all project participants, we managed to function as a single, coordinated team, developing open, effective and collaborative relationships based on trust. Our interdisciplinary team was able to integrate the experience and expertise of more than 30 professionals from the Santiago, Mendoza and Lima offices, all working from home during 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Going beyond the cutting edge in the application of new standards and innovative methodologies was fundamental to our success. Participating in international conferences and high-level discussions, bringing together renowned international consultants, and challenging young people to participate and acquire new knowledge allowed us to operate at the forefront of tailings expertise. The creation of a strong project management structure allowed us to maintain good financial and resource management without compromising service quality.

The result

GISTM represents a step change in terms of transparency, accountability and safeguarding the rights of people affected by mining projects. By being one of the first projects to apply these new standards, we have made great strides in preventing catastrophic failures and improving the safety of Chilean mining tailings facilities in all phases of the project life cycle, including closure and post-closure.

Feedback from CODELCO has been consistently positive, demonstrating the collective benefits of a strong client relationship. In 2022, a new two-year specialized engineering contract was tendered and awarded to Ausenco. The original project was delivered on time and on budget, with a zero-accident rate.