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Rio Tinto has revised how it will manage tailings facilities to comply with the Global Industry Standard for Tailings Management (GISTM).

In August 2020, Rio Tinto and other International Council on Mining & Metals companies pledged to implement the GISTM.

The GISTM encourages the use of measures which prevent tailings facility failures in an effort to promote zero harm.

This includes public disclosure of information about tailings facilities, emergency prepared news for tailings failures, enhanced environmental social governance (ESG) for tailings and better design, operation and closure of tailings facilities.

According to Rio Tinto, any of its tailings facilities that rank “extreme” or “very high” for potential consequences will comply with the standard by August 5, 2023.

The miner stated that all facilities not in a safe state of closure will comply by August 5, 2025.

“In 2020, we completed the technical risk review programme at each of our managed and non-managed TSFs (tailings storage facilities),” Rio Tinto stated.

“The review programme, which began in 2019, found that while our TSFs are generally well managed and there are no immediate dam safety threats, we have opportunities to improve.”

Rio Tinto has introduced improvement plans for its tailings facilities but highlighted that COVID-19-related restrictions have delayed its progress.

In 2020, Rio Tinto appointed a nominated manager and qualified site representative to all of its tailings storage facilities to encourage stringent monitoring.

The company’s tailings facilities have three levels of governance to ensure safer practice is achieved.

The first level involves effective facility design with independent reviews at least every two years.

Rio Tinto’s second level of governance and assurance then undertakes periodic business conformance audits and technical reviews, and the third level of assurance is conducted by third parties.

Rio Tinto has 106 tailings storage facilities globally.