FUV vs RIDM friends or foes at CIMBC22

FUV vs RIDM friends or foes at CIMBC22

May 11th, 2022

FUV vs RIDM friends or foes at CIMBC22 sounds like a riddle, right? But it is not!

Why everything we know about Tailings Dams failure is wrong

Please, note FUV was actually never written as an acronym. Actually FUV stands for firmitasutilitas, et venustas in Latin language.

 Today we freely translate the terms into English as reliability, serviceability and beauty, straying a tad away from the original meaning. However, Henry Wotton, a seventeenth century translator, coined “firmness, commodity, and delight” as essential components of all successful architectural design. Wotton remained faithful to the original intent. Indeed, the three attributes were considered by Roman architect Vitruvius Pollio, the original promoter of FUV at the end the end of the first century B.C.E., as essential qualities of a good design.

So, what does FUV have to do with Risk Informed Decision Making and CIMBC22?

Participating in a panel discussion at CIMBC22

Well, I was lucky enough to participate in a panel discussion with the title:

trials, tribulations, successes and new horizons for mine materials and management. I do not understand why the word tailings did not make into the title, as tailings were actually the main theme.

Six panelists were present and the audience varied between 12 and 21 attendants.

Alistait Kent recapped the presentation of three of the prior day’s course.

In extreme summary those presentation stated that standards do not guarantee safety, multiple lines of defence are necessary, loss of experience is a big hazard lurking on the industry. Furthermore, fixation on compliance may generate blindness especially since standards may be contradictory. All agreed, at Riskope we have been pushing in this direction for the last twenty years or so and our 2019 tailings book goes exactly in that direction.

Points of agreement

We enjoyed Charles Dumaresq talk stating that:

  • conformance may lead to risks if the standard is not sufficient, another hot topic for Riskope.
  • Excellence is surpassing ordinary standards.
  • Excellence it is multifaceted and should include 360-view.
  • Ultimately it is decisions that create failures from project inception.
  • Managing people and their skills is paramount.

Once again, all good and totally agreeable points.

It was then the turn of Mike Davies. He stated that:

  • Many not aligned agendas increase potential for failure.
  • There are limited qualified human resources.
  • Checkbox mentality/approaches do not work.
  • Banning one type of cross section is ineffective.
  • Allowing unprepared people to participate should not be allowed.
  • Having people distracted by multiple tasks is hazardous.
  • Pretending boxchecking approaches will solve issues is nefarious.

Again, all agreed.

There were other panelists, Michel Julien, Colleen Crystal and Karen Chovan whose talk will be the subject of another blogpost soon.

Point of disagreement

 There was however a fundamental point of attrition we raised, leading to an interesting and heated discussion.

Indeed, at Riskope we believe that designer’s intuition, good sense engineering and experience are the ingredients that should lead to FUV. However, the track record of the mining industry relying on intuition, good sense and experience of designers is not the most brilliant one. That is if we look at the impressive number of past catastrophic failures. This does not mean that there aren’t’ brilliant designers out there, perhaps with immaculate track records of successes over their forty or more years of activity. NB: forty years is negligible duration with respect to structures that will have to remain intact “for ever”.

But, statistically, at world-scale, the situation is far from being satisfactory, as pointed out by UNEP, ICMM, the Church of England and the GISTM. Now, an old refrain states that he who cannot measure, cannot manage.

That is why at Riskope we exclusively delve in quantitative approaches that allow our clients to prioritize and perform auditable RIDM.

We can show real life examples all over the world


The graph shows the annualized probabilities estimates for a portfolio of selected active/non active/closed TSFs around the world evaluated using ORE2_Tailings™. The vertical axis bears the annualized probability of failure. Three horizontal lines indicate world-wide benchmarks developed by analyzing historical failure data. The top one correspond to the pre-catastrophic level.

The thick horizontal black segments correspond to the “average” estimate of the probability of failure for each TSF, with the thin black segments indicating the min-max estimates. The blue vertical band shows the “standard deviation”. If large uncertainties are present the minmax range and the standard deviation are larger. The lack of the blue bar means there were not enough data to establish a standard deviation at the time of the assessment.

What people want and what is obsolete

As we have pointed out many times in the past, our societies are not buying the “trust me” or “we have done it many times” talks anymore. Neither do the judges in courts of Law, apparently.

Of course my statement was welcomed by a series of:

  • “we do not need these numbers”,
  • “we know how to do it” and finally,
  • “if you do it right we do not need risk assessments”, 

proving exactly the point we just made in the prior paragraph.

Especially at a conference that was all about innovation, improvement and changing paradigms, there should be no room for that type of remarks.

FUV vs RIDM friends or foes at CIMBC22 closing remarks

It seems that there are enough mining companies out there that want their problems solved in a rational way.  Because they do not accept anymore obsolete views and esoteric statements based on “one man” statistics and “past experience” that has oftentimes proven to be far from excellent.

In 2022, at Riskope we are performing hundred dams risk assessments. We use our proprietary methodology (ORE2_Tailings) to enable companies to comply with GISTM while getting meaingful measurements.  Our clients understand that qualitative approaches will not make the cut, especially when rational decisions and budgets have to agree.

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Category: Consequences, Hazard, Mitigations, ORE2_Tailings, Probabilities, Probability Impact Graphs, Risk analysis, Risk management, Tolerance/Acceptability

One response to “FUV vs RIDM friends or foes at CIMBC22”

  1. john metzger says:

    Nice overview.. THX. Important considerations and moving away from the failed DOGMA of practice for the last 20-30 years is a daily need, and must continue unabated.

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