Summary: A section of the dam wall for a large tailings storage facility at a metalliferous mine failed, resulting in tailings material slumping through the failed section. The slumped material was confined within a second containment facility however some pumping and power infrastructure was damaged as a result of the failure. No workers were exposed to risk at the time of the failure. The mine enacted its emergency response plan.
Consequently two residences owned by the mine were evacuated, and a local road was closed, as a precautionary measure. The Resources Regulator, in cooperation with other agencies, is working with the mine operator to ensure stabilisation and recovery works associated with the failure are being undertaken in a safe manner.
Recommendations to industry: There are many publicised cases of tailings dam failures across the world resulting in the escape of tailings materials off site and / or significant landform instability issues. Safety consequences range from the displacement of downstream communities through to significant injuries and the death of both mine workers and the public.
A cross-agency awareness campaign, facilitated by the Resources Regulator will be conducted across both the coal and metalliferous mining sectors to ensure that titleholders and mine operators are aware of their legislative obligations in relation to tailings management. The campaign will set out the regulator’s expectations as well as identify key knowledge gaps that will need to be addressed by industry to promote best practice tailings management.