Comments on a risk assessment tool for tailings storage facilities

A colleague of ours asked for comments on a risk assessment tool for tailings storage facilities paper by Chovan et al (A risk assessment tool for tailings storage facilities ( We accepted and decided to prepare this piece. The reason is that we have seen various other attempts by reputable engineering companies to use similar methodologies leading to similar comments from our end. The application of simplified methodologies, or unproven approximations in the field of tailings dams could harm people…

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India dam break Facebook and fake news

India dam break Facebook and fake news finds its inspiration in a series of very recent events. Very unfortunately one of them, the Rishiganga dam collapse (, was mortiferous.  World-wide water storage structures are ageing A report by UNU-INWEH,  Ageing Water Storage Infrastructure: An Emerging Global Risk, provides an overview of the phenomenon. Indeed tens of thousands of existing large dams have reached 50 years of age. In addition, many others will approach 100 years. For instance, UK has the…

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Holistic Geoethical Slopes’ Portfolio Risk Assessment in Geological Society

We are proud to publish Holistic Geoethical Slopes’ Portfolio Risk Assessment in Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 508. We want to personally thank Giuseppe Di Capua of IAPG for inviting us. Here is a summary of what we discuss in our paper Landslides of natural and man-made slopes, including dykes and dams represent hazardous geomorphological processes that generate highly variable risks. To optimize a slope mitigation approach, one has to combine the probability of failure and the cost of consequences…

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Strategic operational and tactical planning for tailings hydro dams

We are learning that structural integrity of hydro dams is also becoming an issue. Thus, similarly to tailings dams, we need a strategic operational and tactical planning for tailings hydro dams! Karl Terzaghi, American Society of Civil Engineers, “Terzaghi Lectures, 1974-1982,” American Society of Civil Engineers (1986) ISBN 0-87262-532-X. proposed that a dam rating system should provide ALL of the following: A logical framework for rating the relative safety of a dam Allow for the use of judgment and experience…

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Tables of Risk comparisons

Most tables of risk comparisons in the literature contain a mix of risks characterized by different levels of uncertainty. In addition, most risk comparisons in those tables offer only single number risk estimates, with no range or error term. For risks such as driving, where fatalities can be counted on large samples, the number is likely to be reliable, at least in some countries. However, even if the risk comparison data are carefully and accurately reported, they can be misleading.…

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Anticipating Objections to risk assessments

Anticipating Objections to risk assessments is paramount to foster social licence to operate (SLO) and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The first step is to avoid any suspicion of conflict of interest. Indeed, risk assessments should be performed by an independent entity (Brehaut, 2017, UNEP). That is to avoid conflict of interest (Oboni, Zabolotoniuk, 2013) and assuage public concerns. Nevertheless, the proponent of a project might feel vulnerable if that information becomes public. Thus, today we discuss how to help remove…

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Demands for Zero Risk

Oftentimes when explaining risks to Management or the public “Demands for Zero Risk” objection arise. Repeatedly, stakeholders may point out that any “non zero” risk is unacceptable. Indeed, in the aftermath of any recent accident (Samarco, Cadia, Mount Polley) public opinion, regulators, law enforcement agencies and the media vehemently embrace that vision. However, the first reaction should be to declare that goal  as not realistic as any endeavor has intrinsic risks. Indeed, we are exposed to hazards and resulting risks…

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Tailings dam risk communication

Experience shows that successful risk communications always focuses on planned control measures and precautionary actions rather than on risks. Indeed, like in many other fields, actions speak louder than words. Because actions are what matters to the public. Thus, today, we explore our experience in tailings dam risk communication. In mining, oil and gas and other industries, people demand to know what preventative actions are foreseen. That is even if it is claimed that the likelihood of an accident and…

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