Tailings and Waste Management

Tailings and Waste Management

Why are tailings and waste management important?

Mining operations generate waste that can be in the form of waste rock, processed ore, tailings or sludges. Management of tailings facilities is a global priority for the mining industry, governments, and communities. If not managed properly, this waste can negatively impact the environment and human health in neighbouring communities. Mining processes also generate hazardous and non-hazardous waste, such as solvents and scrap metal. Pan American Silver works hard to ensure stable and long-term management of tailings and other mining wastes, as well as proper waste management and disposal. Both are essential to maintaining community and environmental health, as well as social acceptance.

Material TopicTailings and waste management
Sub-TopicSolid waste management
Spills
Tailings facility management
DefinitionManaging tailings facilities and waste disposal
Feedback From COIsGovernments, communities, investors and other COIs want to be sure that our tailings facilities are safe.
How We’re RespondingWe developed a Tailings, Water Dam, and Heap Leach Facilities Corporate Environmental Standard and commenced site-level implementation.

We completed independent tailings storage facility safety reviews at Morococha and Manantial Espejo.

Potential risks and impacts

  • Tailings, waste stockpile, or heap leach facility failure resulting in impacts on human and ecosystem health, property and community livelihoods
  • Spills, acid drainage, or metal leaching resulting in water and soil contamination 

Related sDGs

Our Approach

We have systems in place for the safe management of our tailings facilities, water storage dams and heap leach pads. We actively seek to reduce our hazardous and non-hazardous waste generation by implementing management plans and procedures at each site.

External Best Practices

  • Mining Association of Canada Tailings Working Group – We participate in this working group, which is responsible for developing best practice industry guidance. In 2018, major updates were completed to the TSM Tailings Management Protocol, Tailings Guide, and Operation, Maintenance and Surveillance Guide.
  • Canadian Dam Association’s Dam Safety Guidelines – We use the guidelines to conduct risk assessments of our facilities.

Programs and Initiatives

  • Independent tailings storage facilities safety review – We are conducting safety reviews in order of priority based on a facility risk assessment.  
  • TSM Tailings Management Protocol – We are implementing the protocol at all of our operations, which will be completed within the year. 
  • Tailings, Water, and Heap Leach Facilities Corporate Environmental Standard – This standard aligns with the Canadian Dam Safety Guidelines and TSM Tailings Management Protocol and provides best practice guidance for our sites. 
  • Predictive modeling – We complete predictive models based on geochemical data and studies for acid drainage and metal leaching prior to mining and update those studies through regular monitoring during operation and closure.
  • Waste management plans – All our mines have site-specific management plans for hazardous and non-hazardous waste, which include actions to maximize reuse and recycling opportunities.

Monitoring

  • Geotechnical and environmental monitoring – We conduct regular monitoring at our tailings, water, and heap leach facilities.
  • Water and soil quality monitoring – We monitor downstream water and soil quality at all operations to ensure compliance with predictive models and water quality regulations.
  • Waste monitoring – We have systems in place to monitor waste generation and disposal at all operations.

Our performance

Tailings Facilities Management

Tailings are the by-products of processing and extracting metals from ore. During 2018, Pan American Silver managed six operating tailings facilities and one water storage dam. Our objective is to minimize potential harm and ensure that our facilities and systems are safe and operating in accordance with Canadian Dam Safety Guidelines and the TSM Tailings Protocol. 

In 2018 we completed a new Corporate Environmental Standard on Tailings, Water, and Heap Leach Facilities, which is aligned with the Canadian Dam Safety Guidelines and TSM Tailings Protocol. The standard is being implemented at all sites.

We conducted a risk assessment of our tailings facilities in 2014 and designed a corresponding program of independent facility safety reviews. We have completed independent reviews at all our tailings and water facilities except La Colorada, which will be completed in 2019. Independent reviews will continue on a five-year basis, depending on the facility risk profile. We also have a closed dry-stack tailings facility at our recently-closed Alamo Dorado mine. We will conduct an independent review of that facility when closure work is completed.

Following extensive field evaluations and design efforts with an independent geotechnical engineering firm, in 2018 we completed the first phase of construction of our long-term La Colorada sulfide tailings facility expansion project. The innovative design provides a high degree of confidence in the stability of tailings deposition, while minimizing the long-term environmental footprint of the facility.

MineType of Tailings FacilityIndependent Facility Safety Reviews
Dolores1 operating water storage dam and heap leach pads2017
La Colorada2 operating tailings facilities; 3 small closed historic tailings depositsPlanned for 2019
Huaron1 tailings facility; 3 small closed historic tailings deposits2014 and 2015
Morococha1 operating subaqueous tailings facility2018
San Vicente1 operating tailings facility2017
Manantial Espejo1 operating tailings facility2017

Waste management

Our operations generate small quantities of hazardous and non-hazardous materials, which require end-of-life recycling or disposal. When possible, we recycle or reuse these products at our operations. For example, used oil can become a heating fuel. For other waste, we follow local regulations in disposing of these materials either on site or at local certified disposal facilities. 

Waste Types

Non-hazardous waste: tires, scrap metal, domestic waste, wood waste

Hazardous waste: used oil, solvents, batteries, reagent packaging, fluorescent lightbulbs 

In 2018, our waste management plans and worker training programs were successful in reducing our overall waste generation and increasing reuse and recycling. The plant demolition and scrapping of the process facility at Alamo Dorado created a large increase in the reuse and recycling of inert waste.

In Peru, our Morococha mine signed a series of recycling agreements with local social welfare NGOs in Lima where they coordinate the sale of our recyclable materials. Our Huaron mine is working on similar agreements.

Types of Waste and Disposal Methods

(tonnes)201820172016
Hazardous or dangerous waste9991,0231,422
Non-hazardous inert waste9251,2881,360
Domestic waste to landfill1,7121,1691,212
Reuse320608560
Recycling4,1901,7701,737

Next Steps

  • Continue site-level implementation of our Tailings, Water, and Heap Leach Facilities Corporate Environmental Standard and the TSM Tailings Management Protocol. 
  • Complete the independent tailings storage facility safety review at La Colorada.
  • Develop a Corporate Environmental Standard for hazardous and non-hazardous waste management.

Click here to see our GRI data tables with additional data for: 

306-2 Waste by type and disposal method 
306-3 Significant spills
MM3 Total amounts of over burden, rock, tailings, and sludges

Click here to see our response to the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative.