We focus on the safety and integrity of tailings storage facilities (TSFs) across our assets to protect people, the environment and communities where we operate.
At BHP, our purpose is to bring people and resources together to build a better world. One way we do this is by focusing on the safety and integrity of all TSFs across our operated and closed assets to protect people, the environment and communities where we operate.
Our approach and position
Following tragic TSF failures at Fundão dam at Samarco in 2015 (a non–operated joint venture (NOJV) owned 50 per cent by BHP) and Brumadinho dam at Vale’s iron ore operation in Brazil in 2019, we have evolved our approach to TSF management through an increased focus on the delivery of a continuous reduction in TSF failure risk. We collaborate extensively across the resources industry to reduce risk, share lessons learned, establish partnerships to improve performance and enhance resilience by sharing and implementing leading practices.
Our short–term strategy focuses on improvement of key risk indicator performance, including studies to reduce and mitigate potential downstream impacts, particularly to those who could be at risk in the event of a TSF failure. Our medium– and long–term strategies focus on complex risk reduction projects and the identification and use of improved tailings management and storage solutions. Where there is a requirement to increase the current tailings storage capacity or construct a new TSF, we plan to investigate cost–effective tailings management solutions, including non–conventional tailings solutions, as part of our efforts that strive to avoid or minimise potential risks (aligned to our risk appetite) and increase social value.
We are committed to achieving alignment with tailings industry standards including the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM) and Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM).
For information on tailings and TSFs refer to the What are tailings and TSFs webpage.
Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management
We welcome the global commitment to raise the industry standard in relation to TSF stewardship throughout the life cycle of TSFs. We support and have contributed to the development of the GISTM, which was established as an international standard for safer tailings management through a process co–convened with the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), United Nations Environmental Programme and the Principles of Responsible Investing.
We will align to the GISTM across BHP operated active and closed TSFs throughout their life cycle from design to post–closure. We have met the ICMM’s GISTM implementation timeframe of August 2023 for extreme and very high consequence classification operated TSFs (referred to subsequently as prioritised TSFs) based on BHP’s assessment of the requirements for GISTM conformance which utilises the ICMM Conformance Protocols for GISTM. For more information refer to our GISTM public disclosure document. We are working towards an August 2025 timeframe for all remaining operated TSFs. We are also committed to continue to work with the industry and community, regulatory and financial stakeholders, to promote the application of consistent disclosure standards. We see this collaboration as an important step toward better tailings stewardship, including independent auditing of industry conformance with the GISTM.
In addition, while BHP’s NOJVs are independently controlled and have their own operating and management standards, we advocate for the adoption of the GISTM by the NOJVs. Where appropriate, we can provide them with support in relation to TSF management (within the limits of the relevant joint venture agreements).
Progress in FY2023
In FY2023, we continued works aimed at reducing our TSF risk, for example:
- At the WAIO Boodarie TSF, we progressed the TSF to a state of safe closure, as defined by the GISTM, when we completed the embankment reshaping and capping of tailings
- The construction of buttresses commenced at Olympic Dam’s TSF5, BMA’s Peak Downs Old Tailings Dam TSF and legacy asset’s Solitude TSF to further reduce the low likelihood of a failure event
- We made progress at our operated and closed assets to align with the GISTM, including preparation of our public for all extreme and very high consequence classification operated TSFs
- We updated our BHP Tailings Storage Facility Policy Statement
For more information on our TSF portfolio refer to Operated and non-operated tailings portfolio in the Other section below.
Governance and oversightFor information on the role of the BHP Board in overseeing our approach to and delivery on sustainability, refer to the Sustainability approach webpage.
Our approach to TSF management focuses on strong governance and effective risk management. Our BHP Tailings Storage Facility Policy Statement outlines our commitment to the safe management of TSFs and our approach to governance and risk management, transparency, emergency preparedness, response and recovery in the event of a failure.
Our tailings storage facilities standard governs how we manage TSFs across our assets. The standard describes specific governance roles associated with the safe management of TSFs, including Accountable Executives who are direct reports of the CEO and communicate with the Sustainability Committee on matters related to TSFs. The standard also requires us to implement a management system that meets all the requirements of the six GISTM topic areas and additional BHP–specific requirements, including independent assurance across the entirety of the mine life cycle.
The Tailings Excellence team supports our assets with continual improvement, risk management and assurance of our operated TSFs, progressing the development of technology to improve tailings management storage and working towards alignment with the GISTM.
Actively engaging with our affected partners and stakeholders regarding our TSFs is a priority. This includes other industry participants with whom we are working in our ongoing effort to realise positive outcomes at BHP and across the industry.
We have contributed to improvements in tailings storage management across the mining industry, including through the ICMM Tailings Working Group. We are participants in other tailings working groups globally, including those associated with the Canadian Dam Association, Australian National Committee on Large Dams, Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Minerals Council of Australia, Mining Association of Canada, Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, and Fundación Chile.
We have formed a collaboration agreement with Rio Tinto to accelerate the development of technology that could significantly increase water recovery from mine tailings, and in turn, reduce potential safety risks and environmental footprints associated with TSFs.
In conjunction with Rio Tinto and the University of Western Australia, we have developed Future Tails, an initiative focused on training, education, research and best–practice guides in the tailings management space. Read more about Future Tails in our case study.
We have launched the BHP Tailings Challenge in conjunction with Fundación Chile to identify the most innovative companies, startups, consortia, research centres and universities and their respective ideas that may help transform fresh tailings and create innovative business models. Read more about the BHP Tailings Challenge in our case study.
DisclosureWe commit to detailed, transparent and integrated disclosure regarding TSF management. We support greater transparency in tailings management disclosure and continue to work with industry to support the development of disclosure standards and improvements for tailings storage management across the mining industry, including through the ICMM Tailings Working Group and our support of the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative. We also engage with the community, regulatory and financial stakeholders and promote the application of consistent disclosure that informs better tailings stewardship.
We publish and regularly update our information and commitment to safe TSF management on our website and annually in our Annual Report and ESG Standards and Databook and in our GISTM public disclosure.
Operated and non-operated tailings portfolio
BHP has 76 TSFs at our operated assets. In addition, there are 10 TSFs at our NOJVs, which are all located in the Americas.
We operate a single Risk Framework for all risks, including TSF failure risks at our assets. We use key risk indicators, set by senior management, to help monitor performance against BHP’s risk appetite. Our Risk Framework requires the pursuit of risk reduction actions to eliminate or reduce exposure to TSF failure risks until they are within BHP’s risk appetite.
The TSF portfolio continues to be assessed against five key risk indicators:
- Dam integrity (factor of safety limits)
- Flood management
- Emergency preparedness and response plans
- Population at risk reduction plan compliance
- Review and governance activities
Our approach to TSF risk management is detailed in Tailings storage facilities risk management.
For more information on our Risk Framework, which we operate to for all risks (including TSF risk), refer to our BHP Annual Report 2023, Operating and Financial Review 8 – How we manage risk.