Tailing and Mine Waste 2014 conference entitled “Risk Assessment and Decision Making for Tailings Facilities”

Tailing and Mine Waste 2014 conference entitled “Risk Assessment and Decision Making for Tailings Facilities”

Oct 7th, 2014

TailingsThe course emphasys was on risk assessment methodologies, but we included many failures case studies such as the recent Mount Polley (based on public data) and a view on perpetuity. The subject of perpetuity was the focus of our paper at this conference (also with Jack) entitled “Risk Assessment of the Long Term Performance of Closed Tailings Facilities”.

Having practiced risk management for over 20 years, we strongly believe in rational and well conceived Risk Assessments and also here. So when we read the title of the paper presented by Steven Vick entitled “The Use and Abuse of Risk Analysis”, we were ready to cross swords with him. However it took Steven two introductory phrases to solve all our concerns. Although we use completely different approaches, we arrive to the same conclusions.

  • Common practice (FMEA) approaches cannot solve miners’ problems,
  • They (can) bring confusions and mask issues
  • Long term risk assessments as they are generally performed cannot properly identify issues.

In particular, quoting Steven’s paper “FMEA systematically produces failure-mode risks that are too low due to cognitive bias, both innate and structural. It also adopts the flawed premise that if individual failure mode risks are low, then system risk must be low.”

The circle of common practice critics is getting larger and we believe this is a very good thing for the mining industry and our society.

So, summarizing to the extreme what we have presented: Corporate leadership and societal acceptability require a paradigm shift in mines’ assessment and management.

That paradigm shift can be achieved as follows:

  • Retire common practice and push forward advanced risk assessment methodologies like (ORE).
  • Consider explicitly and trasparently Societal and Corporate Risk tolerance and their effects on the corporate risk landscape.
  • Foster Risk Communication and Crises Management, reputational and image risks integration.
  • Integrate uncertainties at all level of project development and assessments.
  • Develop Risk Management and Asset Management integration.
  • Consider Risk Based Decision Making a pillar of leadership and sustainable solutions.


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Category: Consequences, Hazard, Mitigations, Probabilities, Probability Impact Graphs, Risk analysis

One response to “Tailing and Mine Waste 2014 conference entitled “Risk Assessment and Decision Making for Tailings Facilities””

  1. Roy Wares says:

    it would have been interesting if boards of directors and senior officials were interviewed on their perception of tailings failure risk.

    My intuitive sense is that boards and senior officials have a much more optimistic view than line staff and independent engineers.

    Governance failure?

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