Global database of tailing dams goes live

Aftermath of Vale’s dam collapse in Brumardinho, Brazil. (Image by Vinícius Mendonça/Ibama, Wikimedia Commons.).

Norwegian environmental organisation GRID-Arendal just launched the world’s first publicly accessible global database of mine tailings storage facilities.

Under the title “Global Tailings Portal,” the database was launched on the one-year anniversary of the tailings dam collapse in Brumadinho, Brazil, which killed hundreds and caused massive environmental destruction. 

“After that disaster, a group of institutional investors led by the Church of England Pensions Board asked 726 of the world’s largest mining companies to disclose details about their tailings dams. Many of the companies complied, and the information they released has been incorporated into the database,” GRID-Arendal said in a media statement.

Besides the Church of England Pensions Board, the Swedish National Pension Funds’ Council on Ethics and the United Nations Environment Program support the initiative 

Until now, there has been no central database detailing the location and quantity of the mining industry’s liquid and solid waste. 

The new portal allows users to view detailed information on more than 1,900 tailings dams, categorised by location, company, dam type, height, volume and risk, among other factors.

“This portal could save lives,” said Elaine Baker, director of the GRID-Arendal office at the University of Sydney, in the press brief. “Tailing dams are getting bigger and bigger. Mining companies have found most of the highest-grade ores and are now mining lower-grade ones, which create more waste. With this information, the entire industry can work towards reducing dam failures in the future.”