In November 2019, MiningWatch Canada brought together almost 200 people — community and grassroots representatives, experts and academics, researchers and activists — to explore some of the thorny issues around the need for metals and materials for renewable energy and climate action. This is the report of that conference.
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. See the full report, a summary table, tailings world map, an infographic on tailings storage methods, and a news release with supporting quotes and list of endorsers.