5 Things You Need to Know About the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management 1

5 Things You Need to Know About the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management

5 Things You Need to Know About the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management

Tailings structures represent enormous liability for mining operations, evidenced by the destruction and tragedy that lies in the wake of tailings dam failures. Despite the best efforts of operators, regulators, and industry experts, major tailings failures happen too frequently.  To combat this pattern of repeated failuresa review was undertaken by a co-convened panel including the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) to develop an international standard for tailings management aimed at preventing catastrophic failure. 

Here is what you need to know about the resulting Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM). 

1) The GISTM iWritten for Operators 

It includes an auditable list of requirements for tailings management. The goal of this list was to incite an industry-wide move towards safe tailings management by providing specified measures to prevent catastrophic failure of tailings facilities, and to implement best practices for the life of asset – from planning through to closure and post-closure. 

2) Consultation and Transparency is Critical 

Ongoing consultation with the public and relevant stakeholders, from planning through to closure and post-closure, is an important part of the GISTM. Meaningful engagement with affected parties is part of the human rights due diligence process for tailings facilities. Continued consultation and transparency improve perception of mining activities and shows that there is “nothing to hide”.  

Okane’s experienced facilitators and study directors can guide you and your stakeholder teams through the steps required to develop and implement integrated closure plans and associated closure study interdependency schedules. Mapping the closure vision to an integrated execution plan allows our clients to realize benefits and risk reduction associated with progressive reclamation throughout the operating Life of Mine.  

3) Integrated Knowledge Increases Safety 

Having an integrated knowledge base, developed across multiple disciplines, contributes vastly to safe tailings management. This knowledge base is intended to extend to the social, environmental, and local economic impact of facilities, in addition to the design criteria used to make the facility safe.  

Okane uses digital models to develop an integrated knowledge base for use as a single ‘source of truth’ for tailings facilities, where all personnel can come to the table and make informed decisions regardless of their technical background.  

4) Improvement Stems from a Learning Culture 

An organizational culture supportive of learning, communication, and early problem recognition is an important part of the GISTM. Fostering a culture that is accepting of experience-based knowledge from personnel on-site allows for integration of this hands-on knowledge into operations, planning, and closure. When personnel at every level of an organization feel that their contribution to the project is important and heard, they are willing to speak up and turn casual observations into real improvement. 

5) Integrated Closure Planning is Key  

The GISTM asks for operators to plan and design facilities to minimize risk for all phases of the project lifecycle. Integrated closure planning includes demonstrating the ability to upgrade tailings storage facilities to facilitate a higher consequence classification at a later date to address changing conditions that are encountered as sites move through their lifecycle. Integrating closure plans is a tenet of the GISTM, where elements of closure designs are implemented during construction and operations, and progressive closure and reclamation proceeds as applicable.   

Okane’s Approach 

Okane is a champion of integrated mine closure, with a team of multi-disciplinary engineers, scientists, and mine planners who fully understand closure requirements. Our team takes a comprehensive approach to tailings storage facility closure design and management and works with our Clients to effectively implement the GISTM in their organizations.  



Aligning Value to Achieve Project Success

Aligning Value to Achieve Project Success

Two of the most used words up and down the hallways of project and engineering offices are Value and integration. But what does Value actually mean? How do project teams achieve true Value, and if they do - is it actually beneficial?

In an ideal world we would have access to the ultimate project ‘silver bullet’ that would interknit Value, integration, and other key project ingredients together into a tapestry that delivers project success for engineering teams, clients, management and stakeholder communities alike.

Defining Value

If we delve deeper into the Value dimension of this ‘mythical’ tapestry and its meaning, we find that it has been ‘the bane of existence’ for academic researchers exploring the phenomena. Interesting enough, what the research into Value has uncovered is likely what we all do, which is to apply the definition of Value in many different ways depending on the audience and subject matter being discussed.

The main challenge that arises in successful project execution is to align the interpretation of Value from different stakeholders and weave the integration thread into the project tapestry to bring it all together.

According to Standards Australia (2007), the definition of Value  is “an attribute of an entity determined by the entity’s perceived usefulness, benefit and importance”. Atkinson (1999) challenged the traditional notion that project management success is based on the iron triangle of: cost, quality and time; and shifted towards a square root model that considered the shared benefits for the organisation and stakeholder community as a measure of Value.

Allee (2000) expanded on this concept further, taking into consideration the potential to increase Value with the use of intellectual capital and intangibles. Allee (2000) perspective was to redefine Value at an enterprise level and extend it to intangible items and outcomes such as business relationships, human competence, internal structures, social citizenship, environmental health and corporate identity. In a sense, Value is the level of importance of ‘things’ in the wider context of what an organization is trying to achieve. Research by Martinsuo and Killen (2014) determined that the definition of value in strategic projects stretches beyond financial outcomes, and should consider the impact of ecological, social, health and safety, societal influences, and learning and knowledge development on project portfolios.

Interpreting Value

What we can see from research on the definition of Value is that there are two fundamental positions on its interpretation (Ang, Killen & Sankaran 2015; Thiry 2004; Zhai, Xin & Cheng 2009) described as tangible and intangible. The tangible has a financial focus, whereas the intangible contains non-commercial values.

Financial Value:

  • Economic
  • Monetary Assets and Measures
  • Alliances
  • Relational Capital
  • Intellectual, Human, and Structural Capital
  • Commercial
  • Tangible Assets
  • Marketing and Branding

Non-financial Value:

  • Social
  • Moral
  • Political
  • Environmental Health
  • Aesthetic
  • Religious
  • Non-commercial
  • Non-monetary Measures (Usefulness)
  • Intangible Assets
  • Relationship

Aligning Value

So, where do the project and client teams sit in terms of their interpretation of Value, and do they align? This is where the ongoing balancing act starts for both parties in the quest to determine the most optimal project outcome based on its cost and scope.

It’s well-known that this balancing act occurs when costs are reduced at the expense of scope. Unfortunately, scope reduction frequently runs the risk of reducing functionality or useability. This struggle is referred to as Exchange-Value vs Use-Value, with the research indicating the privileging of the values of management (Exchange-Value) over those of the client and end-users (Use-Value), which ultimately create an inherent risk of having reduced overall project success.

The Okane Vision

Armed with this knowledge of potential misalignment, the project teams at Okane implement a project framework that integrates Value into project execution through aligning project requirements to optimise the balance between the use and exchange of Value, and to better understand the actual impact of change of cost and functionality.

Let us work with you to align Value and support your Project Success.




Allee, V 2000, 'The value evolution: addressing larger implications of an intellectual capital and intangibles perspective', Journal of intellectual capital, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 17-32.

Ang, K, Killen, CP & Sankaran, S 2015, 'Value constructs in multi-stakeholder environments that influence project portfolio decision making', in Annual Conference of the European Academy of Management, European Academy of Management.

Atkinson, R 1999, 'Project management: cost, time and quality, two best guesses and a phenomenon, its time to accept other success criteria', International Journal of Project Management, vol. 17, no. 6, pp. 337-42.

Martinsuo, M & Killen, CP 2014, 'Value Management in Project Portfolios: Identifying and Assessing Strategic Value', Project Management Journal, vol. 45, no. 5, pp. 56-70.

Standards Australia 2007, 'AS4183-2007 Value Management'.

Thiry, M 2004, '“For DAD”: a programme management life-cycle process', International Journal of Project Management, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 245-52.

Zhai, L, Xin, Y & Cheng, C 2009, 'Understanding the value of project management from a stakeholder's perspective: Case study of mega‐project management', Project Management Journal, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 99-109.


Integrating Traditional Knowledge into Reclamation and Closure Plans

Integrating Traditional Knowledge into Reclamation and Closure Plans

Community, stakeholders and rights holder consultation is imperative for the alignment of mine closure goals for the post closure health of the land. In Canada and many other countries around the world, First Nations and Indigenous communities are at the forefront of mining impacts and should be engaged with meaningful attention and collaboration when planning for closure.

Surprisingly, the application of Traditional Knowledge for closure planning is a relatively new field. How can we, as mine closure practitioners best go about incorporating important Traditional Knowledge into reclamation and closure plans?

Current Regulatory Environment

Generally, closure activities are influenced by a company’s corporate culture, project economics and stakeholder requirements. However, in many cases regulatory requirements are seen to trump all.

The requirements for reclamation and closure are outlined at a regional or national government level and generally through mine permit(s) and during environmental assessments. Requirements for closure vary considerably between countries, with those newer to industrial mining in the process of refining their regulations (Otto, 2010). Requirements for incorporating Indigenous, and First Nations Traditional Knowledge into closure planning can be seen in environmental regulations for countries such as Australia & Canada.

A common misconception across the mining industry is considering First Nations communities as stakeholders only (Joseph, 2014). In many locations, First Nations communities are rights holders, sovereign nations with rights to the land (Brooks, 2013). As companies and countries adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we as mine closure practitioners have the opportunity to engage in much more meaningful collaborations in discussing the future health of land belonging to many.

Returning Land Use Closure Vision

Mine closure planning is a site-specific activity that requires more than technical input from environmental assessments and design studies. Effective closure planning requires the integration of social and cultural values directly from local Indigenous communities to develop more sustainable closure objectives. Sustainable mine closure planning endeavors to minimize, mitigate and eliminate site risk while maximizing returning land use value. We cannot quantify value without including key concerns of the mined land stakeholders and rights holders.

Incorporating Traditional Knowledge

The use of traditional knowledge can help reclamation and closure practitioners better understand plants and animals of a region, and how to sustainably manage local resources (Johnson, 1992). Traditional ecological knowledge is both a detailed description of the environment and the wildlife and broader cultural comments (Wiles et al. 1999). Cultural context help provide detail on social-cultural effects of a project, which includes identification with the land and environment. As many Indigenous communities place great importance and dependency on a healthy environment, any industry that adversely impacts the environment is seen as impacting the well-being and rights of its people.

Many of the difficulties that arise when trying to incorporate Traditional Knowledge can be attributed to the inherent differences between western scientific research and Indigenous values. The styles of communication may strongly differ, but it is our job as closure practitioners to be adaptive in our communication styles.

Sometimes, consultation is treated only as an activity, or task to be done to meet regulatory requirement. Instead, consultation should be a form of collaboration that offers a process for effective communication and strategic problem-solving.

"What’s promoted is ‘consultation’, what participants want is ‘collaboration’ and, what usually occurs is neither."
- Andrew Baisley, Okane

The terminology ‘consultation’ is perhaps confusing the issue by not meeting expectations and appeal for upfront collaboration. Participants impacted by a proposed change to a mine plan or a closure plan are highly motivated to contribute and form part of the solution. With ‘consultation’, the solution may be predetermined, and the purpose of engagement is to socialise or seek feedback on something that is already in progress or decided. Alternatively, ‘collaboration’ takes place when the solution is not yet known, and a group work together in defining the problem as well as the best way to resolve it.

Okane’s Approach

Okane’s approach for integrating Traditional Knowledge into reclamation and closure plans begins by taking a collaborative approach. While we recognize there is no one size fits all process, these foundational principles should be considered:

  1. Recognize traditional knowledge holders as land rights holders who have a connection to the land, water and animals.
  2. When discussing the vision for closure, listen more – talk less.
  3. Understand communications style differ greatly; you may need to meet Knowledge holders with their style of communication.
  4. Recognize the difference between consultation and collaboration and be upfront with what your intentions are.
  5. Meaningful collaboration takes effort and time, so project schedules should plan to accommodate.
  6. What we as reclamation and closure practitioners see as outcomes, deliverables and work products can be seen as commitments and promises to Traditional Knowledge holders.
  7. Best outcomes are achieved not just by integrating Traditional Knowledge in a reclamation and closure plan, but by creating a plan together.

At the end of the day, we are looking for collective ownership of closure plan and returning land use vision that can be celebrated by all parties involved.



Brooks, C. (2013). Rights Holders , Not Stakeholders. Retrieved June 25, 2015, from http://indigenuity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/SEVEN-Spring-2013-Article.pdf

Johnson, M. (1992). Capturing Traditional Environmental Knowledge. Ottawa, ON: IDRC Books.

Joseph, B. (2014). Six “Must Dont’s” for an effective First Nations Engagement Strategy. Retrieved June 25, 2015, from http://www.ictinc.ca/blog/six-must-donts-effective-first-nations-engagement-strategy

Otto, J. M. (2010). Mining, Society, and a Sustainable World: Global Trends in Mine Reclamation and Closure Regulation. (J. Richards, Ed.) (Vol. 1). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-01103-0

Wiles, A., Mcewen, J., & Sadar, M. H. (1999). Use of traditional ecological knowledge in environmental assessment of uranium mining in the Athabasca Saskatchewan. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 18(2), 107–114.