Safety First: Guidelines for Responsible Mine Tailings Management

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From the Executive Summary

The 2019 mine tailings dam collapse near Brumadinho, Brazil, killed over 250 people and decimated houses and buildings for kilometers before flowing into the Paraopeba River. The catastrophe stunned the world, but should not have come as a surprise. Tailings facilities, which contain the processed waste materials generated from mining metals and minerals, are failing with increasing frequency and severity.

Tailings World Map from Safety First
Tailings World Map from Safety First

Current industry standards, the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management released in 2020, do not go far enough to adequately protect communities and ecosystems from failures. The design, construction, operation and closure of tailings facilities require significant changes to protect people and the environment.

The safest tailings facility is the one that is not built. To avoid the long-term liability of mine waste sites and their social and environmental impacts, we must reduce the volume of tailings produced, as well as the overall demand for primary raw minerals. Over the past 40 years, ore grades have declined on average by half for many minerals, effectively doubling the volume of mine waste tailings generated for each unit of mineral produced. Current trends suggest an additional 2- to 10-fold increase in the extraction and uses of most minerals by 2060. These trends are not sustainable. We need to continue to mine at least some minerals, including to support energy transition technologies, but we need best standards and practices to do so.

If your organization would like to join us in working to protect communities from dangerous mining practices, you can do so by signing on here.

For More Information

Tailings Storage Infographic from Safety First
Tailings Storage Infographic from Safety First

Endorsers of Safety First


Organization or Frontline Community


Aberdeen Neighbourhood Association British Columbia, Canada
Action Boréale Québec, Canada
ACWA / Earth Island Institute Alaska, USA
Aksi Ekologi & Emansipasi Rakyat (AEER) Indonesia
Amazon Watch USA
Amnesty International Canada British Columbia, Canada
Anthropocene Alliance USA
Arizona Mining Reform Coalition Arizona, USA
Association pour la Protection du Lac Taureau (APLT) Québec, Canada
Atlantic Salmon Federation Nova Scotia, Canada
Bank Information Center Washington, DC, USA
BC Mining Law Reform Network British Columbia, Canada
Bench Marks Foundation Southern Africa
Campbell River Environmental Committee British Columbia, Canada
Canadian Environmental Law Association Ontario, Canada
Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society (CPAWS-QC) Québec, Canada
CATAPA Belgium
Center for Science in Public Participation Montana, USA
Centre de recherche en éducation et formation relatives à l’environnement (Centr’ERE) Québec, Canada
Centre for Research on Latin Amarica and the Carabbean (York University) Ontario, Canada
Centro de Saberes para a Sustentabilidade Galicia, Spain
Coalition des Opposants a un Projet minier en Haute-Matawinie (COPH) Québec, Canada
Coalition Quebec Meilleure Mine Québec, Canada
Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River Michigan & Wisconsin, USA
Colchester Community Nova Scotia, Canada
Collectif scientifique sur la question du gaz de schiste et les enjeux énergétiques au Québec Québec, Canada
Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida Colombia
Comité citoyen de protection de l’esker Québec, Canada
Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique Latine (CDHAL) Québec, Canada
Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake British Columbia, Canada
Conservation Northwest Washington, USA
ContraMINAcción Galicia, Spain
Council of Canadians (Atlantic) Nova Scotia, Canada
CPAWS Yukon Yukon, Canada
David Suzuki Foundation Québec, Canada
Denver Justice and Peace Committee Denver, USA
E-Tech International New Mexico, USA
Earth Law Center USA
Earthworks USA
Earthjustice USA
Eau Secours Québec, Canada
Ecology Action Centre Nova Scotia, Canada
Ecology Center Michigan, USA
Environmental Defence Canada Canada
Estonian Forest Aid (Eesti Metsa Abiks) Estonia
Fair Mining Collaborative British Columbia, Canada
First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining Canada
Fondation Rivières Québec, Canada
Friends of the Earth Canada Canada
Frojám Community ICCA Galicia, Spain
Fundação Montescola Galicia, Spain
Fundación Tantí – Observatorio Plurinacional de Salares Andinos Chile
Goa Foundation India
Goenchi Mati Movement India
Great Basin Resource Watch Nevada, USA
Greenpeace Brasil Brazil
GRUFIDES Cajamarca, Perú
Grupo de Estudos e Pesquisas Socioambientais (GEPSA) Minas Gerais, Brazil
Grupo de Pesquisa e Extensão Politica, Economia, Mineração, Ambiente e Sociedade (PoEMAS) Brazil
Headwaters Montana Montana, USA
Igapo Project France
IndustriALL Global Union Switzerland
Information Network for Responsible Mining Colorado, USA
Instituto Políticas Alternativas para o Cone Sul (PACS) Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCar) Pará, Brazil
Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) Colombia
Justiça nos Trilhos Maranhão, Brazil
KAIROS Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada
Kamloops Area Preservation Association (KAPA) British Columbia, Canada
Kamloops Moms for Clean Air British Columbia, Canada
LEAD Agency Oklahoma, USA
Limerick Area Conservation Coalition Ontario, Canada
London Mining Network United Kingdom
Malach Consulting Utah, USA
Menikanaehkem Inc. Wisconsin, USA
MIICO Tanzania
Mineral Policy Institute (MPI) Australia
Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin Wisconsin, USA
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network Canada
Mining Watch Romania Romania
MiningWatch Canada Canada
mines, minerals & PEOPLE (mm&P) India
Movimento dos Atingidos e das Atingidas por Barragem (MAB) Brazil
Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment New Mexico, USA
Municipality of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge Québec, Canada
Natural Resources Defense Council USA
Nature Québec Québec, Canada
Nature St-Zenon Québec, Canada
Naturvernforbundet – Friends of the Earth Norway – Mining Group Norway
Northern Confluence Initiative British Columbia, Canada
Northwatch Ontario, Canada
Nova Scotia Salmon Association Nova Scotia, Canada
Observatoire d’Etudes et d’Appui à la Responsabilité Sociale et Environnementale Democratic Republic of the Congo
Okanogan Highlands Alliance Washington, USA
Ontarians for Just & Accountable Mineral Strategy (OJAMS) Ontario, Canada
Oxfam America USA
Plataforma Vecinal Mina Touro – O Pino NON Galicia, Spain
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) Nevada, USA
Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER) Mexico
Rainforest Action Group Australia & Ecuador
Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs (RAVEN) British Columbia, Canada
Regroupement de Protection des Lacs de la Petite-Nation Québec, Canada
REVIMAT Québec, Canada
Rivers Without Borders Alaska, USA
Rock Creek Alliance Mountain States, USA
Salmon Beyond Borders Alaska, USA & British Columbia, Canada
Salva la Selva Spain
Save Our Cabinets Mountain States, USA
Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition Nova Scotia, Canada
Save the South Fork Salmon Idaho, USA
Sierra Club Canada Canada
Sierra Club USA USA
SOS Grenville-sur-la-Rouge Québec, Canada
Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC) Alaska, USA
Southwest Research and Information Center USA
St. Mary’s River Association Nova Scotia, Canada
Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia Society Nova Scotia, Canada
The Andrew Lees Trust United Kingdom
The Friends of the Stikine Society British Columbia, Canada
The Future We Need International
The Gaia Foundation Europe
The Lands Council Washington, USA
Thompson Institute of Environmental Studies British Columbia, Canada
Union of BC Indian Chiefs Turtle Island, Canada
Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition Michigan, USA
Vegans & Vegetarians of Alberta Alberta, Canada
Verdegaia Galicia, Spain
Vida e Ria ou Minaria Galicia, Spain
Weber Sustainability Consulting Utah, USA
West Coast Development Foundation Papua New Guinea
Wilderness Committee British Columbia, Canada
Wildsight British Columbia, Canada
Wilp Luutkudziiwus Nation Gitxsan Laxyip, British Columbia, Canada
Wisconsin Resources Protection Council Wisconsin & Michigan, USA
Yes to Life No to Mining Latin America
Yukon Conservation Society Yukon, Canada

Technical Experts


Dr. Robin Broad International Development
Gavin Mudd Sustainable Mining, Mine Waste Management, & Environmental Impacts
André Oliveira Sawakuchi Fluvial Sedimentology & Environmental Geology
Cathal Doyle International Human Rights Law & Sustainable Development and Human Rights
Tchenna Fernandes Maso Human Rights, Populations Affected by Dams, & Women’s Rights
Dr. Marcos A. Pedlowski Environmental Design and Planning