MAC/20: Mines and Communities

MWC calls for global review of tailings risks

Published by MAC on 2020-01-28
Source: CBC News


MAC co-founding group, MiningWatch Canada (MWC), is pushing for a global review of the safety of tailings dams, urging it must include both engineering and  ground conditions.

Jamie Kneen of MWC points out that notorious Brazilian company  Vale has a very high risk dam in Canada itself at Sudbury, and another in Thompson [see also: Ethical investigation shows mixed results ].


CBC: MiningWatch Canada pushes for global review of safety of tailings dams

CBC News

23 January 2020

State prosecutors in Brazil have charged Fabio Schvartsman, the former
chief executive of the mining company Vale, and 15 other people with
homicide in connection with a tailings dam disaster last January that
killed more than 250 people.

"We really need an independent third party with a lot of clout and
credibility to have the authority to go in and investigate and look at
the engineering but also the ground conditions," said Jamie Kneen.

Vale and the company responsible for inspecting the dam have also been
charged with environmental crimes.

Kneen stated there have been layers of negligence attached to the
operation, which he says the company has tried to deflect.

Kneen said the dam collapse should have been preventable.

"The liability is there in the sense that those structures are fairly
technically designed and executed," he said. "And in this case, there
were signs of instability and it was allowed to continue," he added.

Kneen explained that the charges are specific to the Brazilian
operation. "But I hope that it has a larger effect in making the company
much more attentive to its own engineers and its own internal
reporting, but also to the demands of the community," he added.

As for the tailings dams in Sudbury, Kneen said "they've been determined
to be fairly safe and stable but at the same time if anything did go
wrong the consequences would be very, very serious."

Kneen said that while the engineers and the people on the front line
have a great deal of responsibility, it needs to be clear that due
diligence and accountability go all the way to the top.

"I think it's important to see how that plays out legally in Brazil, and
what we can take from that for Canada or anywhere else in the world,"
he said.

A spokesperson for Vale shared a statement from the Vale press office in
Brazil, which reads in part:

" It is important to note that other authorities are investigating the
case and, at this point, it is premature to claim there was conscious
assumption of risk to cause a deliberate breach of the dam. Vale trusts
in the complete clarification of the causes of the breach and reaffirms
its commitment to continue to fully co-operate with the authorities".

With files from Waubgeshig Rice


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