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The Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) standard, first developed by the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) in 2004, has been updated and now meets, or exceeds, the majority of the global standard’s requirements.

The publication of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management in 2020 provided an opportunity to review TSM’s requirements, says MAC president and CEO Pierre Gratton.

“What we found was broad alignment in most critical aspects, plus some opportunities to further strengthen our guidance and TSM requirements. We also found that, in many respects, TSM is more detailed and rigorous than the standard and is a surer guarantee of the safe management of tailings facilities,” he said on Wednesday.

MAC has now updated its tailings guide to improve alignment with requirements of the global standard and is expanding the application of the TSM Tailings Management Protocol to closed and inactive sites.

With the changes, TSM will provide more detailed and rigorous performance measurement expectations. For example, the global standard has three high-level requirements related to developing and implementing an operation, maintenance and surveillance (OMS) manual for tailings facilities, whereas TSM identifies more than 120 items that must be addressed to be in conformance with the TSM requirement to develop and implement an OMS manual.

The TSM also takes a more comprehensive approach to identifying and addressing human and community rights and benefits.

Further, the MAC pointed out that it had an established and independent verification process with almost two decades of experience measuring, assuring and publicly reporting site level performance.

The TSM was the first mining sustainability standard in the world to require site-level assessments and is mandatory for all companies that are members of implementing associations. Through TSM, eight critical aspects of social and environmental performance are evaluated, independently validated, and publicly reported against 30 distinct performance indicators.

TSM does not fully address elements of the global standard related to the planning, design, and initial construction of new tailings facilities. In addition to guidance in the MAC Tailings Guide, MAC members also rely upon the internationally recognised and respected Canadian Dam Association safety guidelines and tailings dam bulletins.

“With the growth and expansion of TSM internationally, including its adoption most recently by the Minerals Council of Australia, we now have a robust system for ensuring the promotion and implementation of best practices in tailings management the world over,” said Gratton.

The Church of England Pensions Board welcomed Canada’s intent to incorporate the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management into the TSM framework.

“We hope and expect the mining industry as a whole to adopt the standard, and support improvements that will lead to the safer management of waste,” says chief responsible investment officer Adam Matthews.