Teck operates and maintains our tailings facilities to meet global best practices for safety including industry leading protocols established by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and the Mining Association of Canada (MAC). These leading protocols are augmented with best practice technical guidance from the Canadian Dam Association and the International Commission on Large Dams which Teck also takes into consideration for its overall governance program.
Six Levels of Protection
1. Surveillance Technology: Sites employ surveillance systems such as GPS hubs, piezometers, inclinometers, pressure gauges, remote sensing and other technologies to monitor tailings embankments, abutments, natural slopes and water levels.
2. Staff Inspections: Tailings facilities are inspected by trained operators and expert technical staff as frequently as several times daily, with formal staff inspections at our operations at least once per month.
3. Annual Tailings Facility Performance Reviews: Formal performance reviews are conducted annually by an external Engineer of Record. Recent performance reviews for our facilities are publicly available.
4. Detailed Third-Party Reviews: Comprehensive third-party safety reviews are conducted by a qualified independent tailings reviewer as frequently as every three years, based upon the potential consequence for each facility.
5. Internal Governance Reviews: Teck’s Tailings Working Group conducts internal management reviews of our active and closed tailings facilities as well as our major tailings projects on a regular basis.
6. Independent Tailings Review Boards: Our operations, higher consequence legacy facilities with potential consequence and major development projects have Tailings Review Boards made up of independent experts who meet regularly, at least annually, to conduct a third-party review of design, operation, surveillance and maintenance.
All Teck facilities with credible failure modes and/or any appreciable potential consequence have a detailed Operations, Maintenance and Surveillance manual and Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan, which are both regularly reviewed and updated. We also review Emergency Response plans with our local communities and stakeholders and undertake community meetings and emergency drills to work through these plans and discuss our approach to tailings management.
For all high-consequence facilities with credible failure modes, a formal inundation study is conducted to identify any potentially impacted communities and waterbodies in the extremely unlikely event of a tailings incident, in order to evaluate design/mitigation strategies and to assist with emergency planning and response. Teck’s programs exist to reduce the likelihood of such events to negligible.
In evaluating potential consequence, Teck bases its evaluation upon the potential environmental, safety and economic effects of a failure. This ranking does not reflect likelihood of failure, but rather provides a tool to assist with facility design and emergency planning.
Transparency on Tailings
Teck is committed to being open and transparent with communities and other stakeholders regarding the construction and management of our tailings facilities. One of the most important pieces of information for each tailings facility is the Annual Facility Performance Report (AFPR). Formerly termed a Dam Safety Inspection (DSI), an AFPR is conducted annually for each tailings facility by the third-party Engineer of Record. The AFPR is a detailed examination of the facility and related infrastructure with the purpose of identifying any conditions or changes that might impact the safety and reliability of the structure and to make recommendations where any issues warranting attention are noted. Teck tracks the recommendations and works with the Engineer of Record to address each item in a timely manner.
In most jurisdictions, AFPRs are provided to the government on an annual basis but have not often been made publicly available. Following the Mount Polley tailings dam failure in 2014, the Government of British Columbia, Canada, made these annual reports for mines in B.C. publicly available. We support this transparency and have built on this disclosure by making the AFPRs for our tailings facilities in all jurisdictions publicly available.
Teck does not discharge tailings to rivers or oceans.
Focused on Continual Improvement
While we are confident in the safety and security of our tailings facilities, we are committed to continually reviewing our facilities and procedures to maintain the highest standard of safety at our operations. As such, following the tailings failure at the Mt. Polley Mine in British Columbia, Teck undertook an independent evaluation of all facility foundations outside of our already comprehensive review process. Following both the Samarco and Feijão (Brumadinho) failures in Brazil, we initiated special reviews of our tailings facilities and procedures. These reviews include external experts who were independent to any aspect of the design or operation of any of our facilities. These reviews confirmed Teck’s programs to be industry leading and comprehensive but also identified areas for continual improvement which we have embedded into our overall governance program.
In addition to Global Tailings Standard (GISTM), we also work in partnership with numerous local, national and international organizations to support improvements in tailings and mine waste management across our industry, including:
- International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM): A global industry association that represents leading international mining and metals companies. In 2021, ICMM released its Tailings Good Practice Guide which built upon the 2016 Tailings Governance Framework and Position Statement. ICMM also released a Conformance Protocol in 2021 to allow member companies an implementation pathway for the Global Standard noted above (GISTM).
- Mining Association of Canada (MAC): A national association that promotes the development of Canada’s mining and mineral processing industry. Through MAC, we implement the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) program, which aids in improving industry performance. MAC’s Tailings Management Guideline has been an industry leading document for more than 20 years and, along with the ICMM Good Practice Guide, has informed Teck’s own best practice guidance and procedures.
- 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.
- Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia: As a member company, Teck was a reviewer for the guideline for the requirements of foundation investigations for dams that was issued in 2016.
- 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, focused on finding more effective tools for predicting and avoiding tailings facility failures.
- Canadian Dam Association: As a member of the Association, Teck’s senior technical leaders have provided input to industry guidance on best practices.