More inclusive conversations could enhance mine safety

01 April 2020 2 min. read
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Mining Consultancy SRK Consulting has once again called for stakeholder collaboration in the mining sector, this time to ensure safety in tailings storage facilities (TSFs), or tailings dams. Senior Geotechnical Engineer at the firm Linda Spies made the call at a Southern African Institute of Mining & Metallurgy (SAIMM) conference held recently. 

Spies referred to incidents across the globe in recent years that caused a devastating loss of life due to unsafe tailing dams. Regulatory restrictions on mining companies have since become increasingly stringent, and Spies concludes that more collaboration is the key to ensuring compliance.

“After several hundred lives were lost in two well-publicised tailings dam failures in Brazil in 2015 and 2019, awareness of tailings dam risks has been raised within the mining industry and in the public eye globally,” she said. What made these incidents stand out in their impact is the fact that senior executives at mining companies were held to account.

More inclusive conversations could enhance mine safety

She explains how members of the leadership were “implicated directly with charges of manslaughter and environmental damage.” This prompted a more active response from the sector, although Spies believes that having a more diverse discussion is crucial to making progress in this regard.

She points out how conferences around mining in South Africa traditionally involve academics and executives, which leaves out a whole range of voices involved in the sector. The SAIMM conference where Spies spoke involved a much more diverse set of participants, including owners, contractors and consultants.

“This meant that the discussion was more holistic and valuable, enriched with insights from these various perspectives,” said Spies. Spies is a senior member at SRK Consulting, which is among the leading mining advisory firms in South Africa, offering valuable insights and analysis on the sector.

The firm has long highlighted that more inclusive stakeholder collaboration is the key to making progress in the mining sector, to ensure that lives and livelihoods are protected. The firm previously invited such a diverse conversation surrounding mining closures in South Africa, which has also emerged as a controversial issue.