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Tailings Management

Tailings Management FAQ

Mining involves the extraction of ore—the rock containing economically recoverable amounts of desired metals—from the host rock. To access the ore deposits, waste rock must be removed and stored in waste rock dumps and, after processing, mine tailings may be produced and stored in engineered tailings storage facilities (TSFs).

All Barrick-operated or controlled tailings storage facilities (TSFs) are subject to the company’s Tailings and Heap Leach Management Standard (the Standard), which requires that we design, build, operate, and close our TSFs in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations as a minimum requirement. This Standard also outlines:

  • Roles and responsibilities for our Engineers of Record (EoRs) and Responsible Persons (RPs);
  • Schedules for routine inspections by our operators, EoR dam safety inspections (typically annually), dam safety reviews, independent geotechnical review committee assignments and management audits to the Standard. (Barrick has maintained a fully independent geotechnical review committee since 1998);
  • Geotechnical instrumentation monitoring, data reduction, assessment and reporting obligations, including the establishment of trigger action response plans (TARPs); and
  • Minimum required geotechnical, hydrological, hydrogeological and environmental design and performance standards.

As of January 1, 2019, Barrick manages a total of 55 TSFs. 13 of these (24%) are operating, while 42 (76%) are closed.

Our Barrick joint venture and affiliated companies have their own management standards, which are substantially aligned with ours. We audited our joint-venture tailings impoundments in 2017 to give us confidence that this is the case, and we will continue to perform such joint-venture partner tailings management reviews on a regular basis, with the findings and recommendations reported to Barrick’s Executive Committee, as well as to the responsible managers for our joint-venture partners.

Barrick believes that its mandated tailings management systems and Standard meet or exceed accepted international practice and provide the company appropriate assurance in jurisdictions where tailings management and dam safety regulations do not meet international practice standards.

The Standard also establishes the following minimum geotechnical, hydrological, hydrogeological and environmental design, construction, operation, and closure criteria and procedures for Barrick’s TSFs:

  • They must be designed, constructed, operated, closed, and reclaimed with the consideration of protection of: human health, water and air quality, domestic livestock and aquatic, avian and terrestrial wildlife. Where cyanide solutions are present, the requirements of the International Cyanide Management Code must be followed.
  • They must be designed, constructed, operated, closed, and reclaimed to prevent the uncontrolled release of solids and/or fluids, and the compromise of (i.e. unacceptable damage to) buried elements including filter zones and/or geosynthetic liners, resulting from large-scale structural instability such as slope failure or deformation. Adequate controls must be provided for all phases to prevent unacceptable erosion by wind and water. Potential physical and chemical degradation of structural elements such as TSF embankment fills and HLF ore must be considered.
  • Reclamation and post-operation performance requirements must be incorporated in the design and operating plans to reduce closure construction costs and long-term liabilities. Where regulatory and property-ownership conditions allow the possibility of returning a closed TSF or HLF site to the state, the design, permitting agreements, and reclamation strategy should avoid perpetual care.
  • Each active TSF and HLF must be monitored and subjected to routine technical inspections and reviews.

Among other performance obligations, the Standard the Standard outlines six levels of safety oversight (six levels of surety) that must be undertaken, with full documentation at each stage:

  1. Monitoring Technology:

    Our operating sites employ monitoring systems such as vibrating wire piezometers, inclinometers, drone surveys, satellite surveys and imagery, static prisms for movement detection, drainage monitoring and other technologies to monitor tailings storage facilities (TSF’s), abutments, natural slopes and water levels.


  2. Routine Inspection:

    Conducted by suitably qualified and experienced operation site personnel, in compliance with Operation, Maintenance and Surveillance (OMS) Manual requirements. Intended to ensure that the TSF is operating within prescribed parameters.


  3. EoR / Dam Safety Inspection:

    Conducted by the Engineer of Record (EoR) responsible for the design of the current TSF phase, or by a suitably qualified and experienced geotechnical engineer outside of Barrick with a comprehensive understanding of the current TSF phase. Intended to verify that the existing or anticipated TSF conditions follow design intent and that site-specific performance objectives are being met.


  4. Dam Safety Review:

    Conducted by a suitably qualified and experienced geotechnical engineer outside of Barrick who is neither the EoR nor a representative of the TSF operation or closure design consulting firm and who has a comprehensive understanding of the current TSF phase. Intended to provide a detailed, independent assessment of the safety and operational stewardship of the TSF.


  5. Assurance Audit:

    Conducted by our internal corporate technical specialists. Expected audit frequency of one to three years, based in part on compliance level and previous findings. Intended to ensure that the existing or anticipated TSF conditions and management procedures comply with Barrick’s corporate Tailings Management Standard.


  6. Independent Tailings Review Committee:

    Conducted by one or more qualified and internationally-recognized experts outside of Barrick and not involved with preparation of the TSF design. Intended to provide an expert, independent opinion as to whether or not the TSF design and current and/or anticipated performance demonstrate an acceptable level of care, from geotechnical, hydrotechnical and environmental perspectives and with reference to accepted international practice.