Purge Cachethumb_up

Teck Logo

Tailings Management Banner

Tailings Management

Our tailings management performance; tailings incidents and reviews; tailings governance measures; industry association activities.

GRI Indicators

G4-MM3

 

Tailings Management

Tailings are a common by-product of the mining process and tailings management is a critical element in the design, operation and closure planning of mines. Recent incidents demonstrate the potential severe impacts of tailings failures. The tailings facility failure at Brumadinho in Brazil in January 2019 has resulted in an unprecedented level of scrutiny and inquiry from regulators and other stakeholders. For example, the ICMM, UNEP and PRI co-convened an independent review following the disaster, with the aim of establishing the first international standard for tailings storage facilities building upon best practice guidance that has existed for a number of years.

Teck currently manages 16 active tailings facilities and 39 tailings facilities that are closed and no longer receiving tailings. Tailings storage facilities at all of Teck’s operating and closed sites meet or exceed regulatory requirements, and we are continually improving the management of our facilities by developing and incorporating best practices. In 2019, Teck continued to play an active role in promoting leading practices for tailings facility management, both in our own operations and across the mining industry as part of ICMM and the Mining Association of Canada (MAC). 

In 2019, we also undertook a special review of Teck’s governance of tailings and water retention structures, including our upstream and higher-consequence facilities. The review, which included independent external experts, was conducted to provide an extra measure of assurance over the safety and security of our facilities, to confirm the robustness of our processes and to identify opportunities for improvement. The independent reviewers reported their results to the Safety & Sustainability Committee of the Board. While the review found no immediate or emerging threats of catastrophic failures within our tailings and water dams, we remain focused on maintaining our management practices and avoiding any increased risk of failure at any of our facilities. 

 

Our Approach to Tailings Management

Tailings and mine waste rock are common by-products of mining practice. Tailings facilities are historically well managed with very few incidents; however, a tailings incident has the potential to have a significant impact on communities, local economies and the surrounding environment. Teck currently manages 55 tailings facilities. Of these, 35 are at our operating mines and 20 are at the legacy properties that we manage. This total includes 16 “dry stack” (unsaturated) facilities at our steelmaking coal mines. Of the tailings facilities, 16 are in active use and 39 are closed and no longer receiving tailings.

Tailings storage facilities at all of Teck’s operating and closed sites meet or exceed regulatory requirements, and responsible management of tailings and waste rock is critical for our company. We are continually improving the management of our facilities by developing and incorporating best practices.

The Board of Directors, through its Safety and Sustainability Committee, broadly oversees health, safety, environment and community policies, systems, performance and auditing, including implementation of our Health, Safety, Environment and Community (HSEC) Management Standards and tailings guidance. Our activities associated with tailings and waste management are reported to the Safety and Sustainability Committee of the Board and/or to our HSEC Risk Management Committee.

The following senior leaders are involved in implementing the management of tailings and mine waste:

  • The Senior Vice President, Sustainability and External Affairs reports directly to the President and CEO and is responsible for sustainability, health and safety, environment, community, and Indigenous affairs, including tailings management
  • The Vice President, Environment oversees compliance with environmental standards for projects, operations and our legacy properties, and regularly reviews environmental performance risks and strategic issues, including tailings management, biodiversity, water, air and energy
  • The Senior Advisor, Tailings & Mine Waste chairs our Tailings Working Group and reports directly to the Vice President, Environment

 

The Tailings Working Group includes members of our senior management team and tailings management subject matter experts from operations where we have active tailings storage facilities. The group provides oversight and guidance, and conducts reviews to ensure alignment with Teck’s guidelines for tailings management. This activity includes engaging qualified professionals for the entire life cycle of our tailings facilities for completing independent reviews.

Teck’s Tailings and Water Retaining Structures Governance framework provides a consistent company-wide approach to how we manage the risks inherent with tailings. This framework provides clear guidance on roles and responsibilities related to tailings management across all Teck projects, operations and legacy properties.

Teck’s HSEC Management Standards also include general guidance on tailings and mine waste management. The Safety and Sustainability Committee of the Board oversees these management standards and the associated guidance documents, and our adherence to them.

We work with various local, national and international organizations and programs to support improvements in tailings and mine waste management across the industry:

  • International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM): A global industry association that represents leading international mining and metals companies who are required to implement the ICMM 10 Principles, including Principle 6 on Environmental Performance
  • Mining Association of Canada (MAC): A national association that promotes the development of Canada’s mining and mineral processing industry. Through MAC, we are required to implement the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) program, which aids in improving industry performance. Teck’s Senior Advisor, Tailings & Mine Waste is the Chair of MAC’s Tailings Working Group.
  • Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA): An alliance of oil sands producers focused on accelerating improvement in environmental performance in Canada’s oil sands through collaborative action and innovation
  • Engineers and Geoscientists BC: As a member company, Teck’s Senior Advisor, Tailings & Mine Waste was a reviewer for the guideline that was issued in 2016 for the requirements of foundation investigations for dams
  • Australian Research Council: In 2017, Teck became part of an initial three-year applied research program, along with four universities in Australia and several other mining companies, that is focused on finding more effective tools for predicting and avoiding tailings facility failures

Tailings storage facilities at all our operations meet or exceed regulatory requirements, and we work to continually improve the management of these facilities. Planning, design, construction, operation, decommissioning and closure are carried out in a manner such that:

  • Structures are stable
  • Solids and water are managed within designated/approved areas
  • Facilities comply with regulatory requirements
  • Facilities conform to applicable standards, internal policies, industry best practices and the technical guidelines of the jurisdictions in which we operate

 

We have comprehensive systems and procedures in place for the safe operation and monitoring of tailings facilities that follow best practices, organized around interrelated activities that include:

  1. Surveillance Technology: Dictated by site-specific conditions and approved designs, our sites employ surveillance systems such as piezometers, inclinometers, pressure gauges, satellite and other remote sensing, and other technologies to monitor tailings dams, abutments, natural slopes and water levels. The surveillance information is evaluated against established response levels that include predetermined mitigation activities, should unusual performance arise.
  2. Staff Inspections: Tailings dams are inspected by trained operators and expert technical staff as frequently as several times daily, with formal staff inspections at least once per month.
  3. Annual External Inspections: A fully licensed, qualified individual who is vetted by our Tailings Working Group conducts formal dam safety inspections at least annually. Independent, qualified engineers also conduct periodic reviews, with timing dependent upon the consequence classification of the facility. For all facilities, the annual inspection reports are provided to the appropriate authority in each jurisdiction.
  4. Internal Review: On a formal rotation basis every two to three years, we conduct internal management reviews of our tailings facilities. These Tailings Governance Reviews evaluate each site’s conformance with our internal tailings guidance documents and policy. In addition, informal and more frequent reviews of our facilities are carried out by one or more members of our Tailings Working Group during routine site evaluations, which assist in reinforcing the issues discussed during the most recent governance reviews.
  5. Detailed Third-Party Reviews: A qualified independent tailings reviewer, vetted by our Tailings Working Group, conducts comprehensive third-party dam safety reviews every five to 10 years for active and inactive facilities. The frequency of inspection is based on the consequence classification for each facility.
  6. Independent Review Boards: Our operations and projects with existing or planned major tailings storage facilities have Tailings Review Boards made up of independent experts from relevant areas, such as geotechnical, hydrogeological, hydro-technical and geochemical fields. These boards meet from once to several times per year, depending upon the nature of the facility and the issues being considered by the board, to conduct a third-party review of design, operation, surveillance and maintenance of our storage facilities.

 

Each facility also has a regularly updated detailed Operations, Maintenance and Surveillance (OMS) manual and Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan. We maintain site-specific Tailings Management Systems that conform to or exceed industry standards of practice.

These systems demonstrate leadership, and commitment to responsible tailings management practices, and were developed through consultation with communities. We continually review our facilities and procedures and are committed to maintaining the highest standard of safety at our operations. See Our Approach to Emergency Preparedness for further information.

Antamina and Fort Hills, joint venture operations where Teck is not the operator, both have Tailings Review Boards in place as well. Teck also provides senior experts to Antamina’s Tailings Technical Committee.

For information about Teck’s approach to waste management, including tailings and fine coal refuse, waste rock and overburden, coarse coal refuse, and hazardous and non-hazardous waste, see Our Approach to Responsible Production and Waste Management.

2019 Status of Major Tailings and Water Retaining Structures 

Location

Annual Dam Safety Inspections(1)

Dam Safety Reviews(2)

Independent Review Board Activity(3)

Tailings Governance Reviews

Up to Date

Up to Date

Carmen de Andacollo

Current—reviewed in 2019

Elkview

Current — next review in 2020

Fording River

Current — reviewed in 2019

Greenhills

Current — next review in 2020

Highland Valley Copper

Current — next review in 2020

Red Dog

Current — reviewed in 2019

Sullivan(4)

Current — next review in 2020

Louvicourt(4)

Current — next review in 2021

Quebrada Blanca Phase 2

Not yet operating

Not yet operating

Current — reviewed in 2019

  1. The Engineer of Record performs a detailed examination of the facility, its related infrastructure and the records relating to these, to identify any conditions or changes that might contribute to, or signal the potential for, a compromise to the safety and reliability of the structure.
  2. A facility review by an independent, third-party engineer not affiliated with the Engineer of Record or the Tailings Review Board. The frequency of these reviews depends on the failure consequence risk-rating of that structure.
  3. Review by a team of independent senior subject matter experts who review the facility design approach, surveillance results and a site’s overall approach to tailings management, including performance of the Engineer of Record.
  4. Legacy property.

We are committed to the safe and environmentally responsible development, operation and management of tailings storage facilities. We continually review our facilities and procedures, and are committed to maintaining the highest standard of safety and environmental protection at our operations, including standards set by MAC and ICMM. We aim to have zero significant environmental incidents across the organization.

Our sustainability strategy outlines our goals in relation to continuously improving tailings management at our operations. In 2019, we conducted broad engagement with employees and external stakeholders to identify and prioritize global trends and issues and set a new sustainability strategy, including new goals in tailings management:

Strategic Priority:

  • Continue to manage our tailings across their life cycle in a safe and environmentally responsible way

 

Goals:

  • Preferentially consider milling and tailings technologies that use less water, both for new mines and any mine life extensions at existing mines
  • Expand the use of digitally connected surveillance technologies to assist in monitoring our tailings storage facilities

 

For more information on our existing and new sustainability strategy goals, see the Sustainability Strategy section of our website.

In addition to the external review processes and the internal assessments of performance against our own guidelines and practices noted above, we assess our tailings management practices under MAC’s TSM Tailings Management Protocol. Achieving a minimum of a Level A rating under TSM is a requirement of our HSEC Management Standards. A Level A rating indicates that tailings management practices that meet industry best practice, as defined by the MAC Tailings Guidelines, have been developed and implemented. All of our operations meet or exceed this standard. Several of our facilities reached a verified Level AAA, which indicates excellence and leadership in tailings management, through validation by an external, independent evaluation.

Type

Organization

Items Reviewed

External

Mining Association of Canada: Towards Sustainable Mining

  • Tailings management policy and commitment
  • Tailings management system
  • Assigned accountability and responsibility for tailings management
  • Annual tailings management review
  • Operation, Maintenance and Surveillance manual

External

ISO 14001 external audits

  • Components of the environmental management system at each site

Internal

Risk-based Health, Safety and Environment audits at each site

  • Adherence to regulatory and permit requirements; effectiveness of controls based on risk profile

Internal

Tailings Governance Reviews

  • Assessment of operational tailings management activities relative to Tailings Governance framework

Following each of these types of assurance, applicable management teams use the results to inform future actions and Teck’s five-year planning process.

We report on our performance against these indicators and our progress towards our tailings and environmental management goals on an annual basis in our sustainability report.

 

Our Performance in Tailings Management in 2019

Internal and external reviews of our facilities and procedures are conducted to ensure we maintain the highest standard of safety and environmental protection, including following best practice guidance set by MAC and ICMM. Beyond the comprehensive internal and external reviews, an additional level of facility oversight is in place for our tailings facilities through our Tailings Working Group that includes subject matter experts from across our business units and sites. This working group also maintains Teck’s own tailings guidance and governance framework documents.

Internal Reviews

Staff Inspections

Tailings dams are inspected by trained operators and expert technical staff as frequently as several times daily, with formal staff inspections at least once per month.

Tailings Governance Reviews

Tailings Governance Reviews are carried out every second year at our operations and every third year at our legacy properties by internal subject matter experts. These governance reviews include confirmation that we have the personnel and procedures in place to meet our commitments, and that we are addressing recommendations for continual improvement from our external reviews in a meaningful and timely manner.

The governance reviews also evaluate the performance of our Engineers of Record and other external reviewers to look for signs of complacency or lack of succession planning by those outside of Teck who we rely upon as part of our overall management processes. For our joint venture projects, we have an ongoing process with the other shareholders of the Antamina mine and the Fort Hills oil sands mine that meet the requirements of our governance review process.

From the combined Governance Review process in 2019, there were no significant findings; however, several value-added items were identified and are being actioned by the sites. As a result of our ongoing Tailings Governance Review processes and based on themes from the MAC and ICMM advancements, we are further strengthening our guidance related to change management, roles and responsibilities, enhancing integration of risk evaluation and identifying critical controls.

External Reviews

Dam Safety Inspections and Dam Safety Reviews

A fully licensed, qualified individual who is vetted by our Tailings Working Group conducts formal dam safety inspections (DSIs) at least annually. Independent, qualified engineers also conduct periodic reviews, with timing dependent upon the consequence classification of the facility. For all facilities, the annual inspection reports are provided to the appropriate authority in each jurisdiction. DSIs and Dam Safety Reviews are conducted to evaluate our conformance with international best practices, our internal policy/standards and applicable regulatory requirements. Teck makes DSIs and other information about our tailings facilities, both operating and legacy, available on our website at www.teck.com/tailings.

Independent Review Boards

A key element of Teck’s review process is the use of Independent Review Boards. These boards, typically comprising three very senior subject matter specialists, meet from once to several times per year, depending upon the nature of the facility and the issues being considered by the board, to conduct a third-party review of design, operation, surveillance and maintenance of our storage facilities. The results from the Review Board assessments are communicated directly to senior management.

Additional Detailed Third Party Reviews

A qualified independent tailings reviewer, vetted by our Tailings Working Group, conducts comprehensive third-party dam safety reviews every three to 10 years for active and inactive facilities. The frequency of inspection is based on the consequence classification for each facility.

Tailings Reviews Conducted in 2019

All of our operating and legacy facilities are reviewed against our internal policy and guidance documentation on a regular schedule, as described in Table 17.

Table 17: 2019 Status of Major Tailings and Water Retaining Structures

Location

Annual Dam Safety Inspections(1)

Dam Safety Reviews(2)

Independent Review Board Activity(3)

Tailings Governance Reviews

Up to Date

Up to Date

Carmen de Andacollo

Current—third review in 2019

Elkview

Current — next review in 2020

Fording River

Current — second review in 2019

Greenhills

Current — next review in 2020

Highland Valley Copper

 

Current — next review in 2020

Red Dog

Current — second review in 2019

Sullivan(4)

Current — next review in 2020

Louvicourt(4)

Current — next review in 2021

Quebrada Blanca Phase 2

Not yet operating

Not yet operating

Current — initial review in 2019
  1. The Engineer of Record performs a detailed examination of the facility, its related infrastructure and the records relating to these, to identify any conditions or changes that might contribute to, or signal the potential for, a compromise to the safety and reliability of the structure.
  2. A facility review by an independent, third-party engineer not affiliated with the Engineer of Record or the Tailings Review Board. The frequency of these reviews depends on the failure consequence risk-rating of that structure.
  3. Review by a team of independent senior subject matter experts who review the facility design approach, surveillance results and a site’s overall approach to tailings management, including performance of the Engineer of Record.
  4. Legacy property.

Special Reviews

In addition to internal and external reviews, Teck will occasionally complete a special review. The Mount Polley event (2014) and the Samarco event (2015) both triggered such reviews. In 2019, in response to the tragic failure at Brumadinho in Brazil, Teck conducted a special independent review of its tailings and water retention structures, inclusive of our upstream and higher-consequence facilities that was reported to the Safety and Sustainability Committee of the Board. This special review included three external senior subject matter experts and was performed in three stages:

  • Phase 1: Tabletop confirmation of all consequence classification and risk ranking of Teck’s operating, legacy tailings and water retention structures, as well as major projects.
  • Phase 2: Evaluation of the effectiveness of technical design and governance of the evaluated facilities, with special focus on critical controls for facility event triggering, emergency warning/response and dedicated personnel, both in terms of capacity and competence/training.
  • Phase 3: Visits to select sites from Phase 2 to respond to questions from the external reviewers. The outcome of this phase was the final assessment of higher-priority facilities, which included a review of residual risk of failure events and subsequent loss of life or environmental damage, taking into account potential locations of people downstream of the tailings and water retention structures.

The review concluded that no immediate or emerging threats of catastrophic failures were apparent within Teck’s tailings and water dams.  

Tailings Performance in 2019

Total tailings and fine coal refuse generated from processing ore and raw coal, stored in the 35 facilities at our operating mines, are reported in Table 18. This total does not include our minority joint venture operations at Antamina and Fort Hills.

Table 18: Tailings and Fine Coal Refuse Generated from Processing Ore and Raw Coal (Million Tonnes)

2019

2018

2017

2016

74

76

75

73

Tailings Incidents

Building on our strong track record of tailings management, in 2019, we had zero significant incidents at our tailings storage facilities and all of our facilities performed as intended, with their inspections and assorted internal and external reviews conducted as scheduled.

 

Industry Association Activities

Teck chairs the MAC Tailings Working Group, which has been responsible for providing industry-leading best practice guidance, including key industry guidance documents issued in 2019.

Teck was also an active participant in ICMM’s Tailings Position Statement and Governance Framework, and is a participant in ICMM’s leadership work on a long-term goal of developing safe and sustainable alternatives to conventional wet tailings storage facilities. We are also actively involved in the work underway by the ICMM, UNEP and PRI to develop an international standard for the safer management of tailings storage facilities.

We remain committed to transparency and enhanced disclosure, and have participated in providing detailed information about our tailings facilities on our website and through responses to the tailings facility inquiry by the Church of England and the Swedish Council on Ethics for the AP Funds.


Outlook for Tailings Management

As the mining industry reviews and improves leading practices for tailings management, Teck will continue to maintain the highest standards for tailings management and play an active role in collaborating with industry partners, communities, investors and other stakeholders. For example, we collaborated with five industry peers and four academic institutes based in Australia where there is a centre of excellence in researching tailings liquefaction. Tailings liquefaction is a factor in nearly half of all historical facility failures and work on better predicting where and when it can occur will improve the safety of facilities susceptible to this phenomenon. We will also continue to work with ICMM on the global tailings standard development and continue our engagements with ICMM’s and MAC’s tailings working groups in 2020 to evaluate ways in which the industry guidance that is developed through these efforts can be used to improve our practices.

Moving forward, we will work towards our strategic priority of continuing to manage our tailings across their life cycle in a safe and environmentally responsible way. We have set new goals on tailings management, which includes preferentially consider milling and tailings technologies that use less water for both new mines and any mine life extensions at existing mines and expanding the use of digitally connected surveillance technologies to assist in monitoring our tailings storage facilities. Our focus in 2020 will be on making progress towards achieving our new goals.

 


Dam Safety Inspection Reports

Dam Safety Inspection Reports

Dam Safety Inspections (DSIs) are one of the measures in place for the safe management of our tailings facilities. DSIs are conducted annually by a third-party Engineer of Record for mine tailings facilities in order to to review the safe operation, maintenance and surveillance of the facility and to identify and make any recommendations.

Follow link for DSIs for Teck’s tailings facilities by operation.

Read More
Teck

Teck is a diversified resource company committed to responsible mining and mineral development with major business units focused on copper, steelmaking coal and zinc, as well as investments in energy assets.