Sibanye-Stillwater is committed to the safe and environmentally responsible stewardship of our tailings storage facilities. Tailings facilities store a mine’s primary waste stream. Without proper management, these facilities can pose a significant risk to the natural and social environment. Catastrophic tailings facility failures can devastate the environment and destroy lives and livelihoods. Such catastrophic failures are unacceptable, and Sibanye-Stillwater is dedicated to ensuring that systems, standards and resources are in place to prevent failures.
Sibanye-Stillwater is on a journey of continual improvement in health, safety, and environmental performance with the ultimate goal of zero harm. The Company is dedicated to minimising human and environmental risk associated with its tailings storage facilities. The goal of zero harm from tailings facilities encompasses both physical and chemical performance objectives including zero catastrophic failures of our tailings storage facilities and no significant adverse effects on the environment or human health.
Sibanye-Stillwater has embarked on a wide-ranging programme to align its management of tailings storage facilities with that of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM) launched on 6 August 2020.
Given the extensive requirements contained in the the GISTM, all ICMM members have been given a grace period of three years (for high and extreme facilities) or five years (for all other facilities) to make adjustments to their tailings storage facility policies and procedures and to improve or upgrade existing high-risk facilities.
Sibanye-Stillwater has begun implementing a range of initiatives to improve and align its management of tailings storage facilities, a process which is expected to take between two to three years.
The first priority measure undertaken in 2020 was the appointment of an experienced tailings engineer as Vice President Tailings Engineering, a new position created to oversee all aspects relating to tailings management. Linked to this appointment was a shift in reporting procedure so that all matters relating to tailings management are reported directly to the Executive Committee with the Chief Technical Officer appointed as the Accountable Executive for tailings management (A specific requirement of the GISTM).
With management and reporting structures finalised, the Group has turned its attention to the governance aspect of tailings management. There are a number of changes that need to be made to align to the strict governance requirements contained in the GISTM. This includes, but is not limited to, the development of a new tailings storage facility-focused governance framework, the overhaul of tailings storage facility-related policies into a single Board-approved policy and the improvement of operational documentation to assist in site-level validation and third-party assessments.
Simultaneously, Sibanye-Stillwater has embarked on a programme to evaluate the geotechnical status of all its SA and US tailings storage facilities. Of particular focus in these investigations will be the stability of each tailings storage facility. This aspect, as well as factors relating to safety, are more stringent according to international best practice than has been legislated and applied in South Africa, particularly historically.
A comprehensive gap analysis is also underway to determine the shortfalls against the GISTM. The new policy is aligned to the GISTM and includes measures to identify, report and mitigate risks.
WHAT ARE TAILINGS?
Tailings are what remains after extracting valuable minerals and metals from mined ore and usually take the form of a liquid slurry comprising crushed rock, water, trace quantities of metals and additives used in processing, such as petroleum by-products, sulfuric acid and cyanide.
Tailings are pumped into surface dams known as tailings storage facilities (TSFs) where the material will dry. Thereafter the area will be restored with grass and other vegetation at the end of the facility’s life. TSFs can be constructed in a number of ways depending on a number of factors, namely, local topography, rainfall, seismic activity and the proximity of the mine to local communities.
Tailings storage facilities follow one of three wall construction designs – downstream, upstream or centreline.
Sibanye-Stillwater has 41 tailings storage facilities under current management as listed below – both in South Africa and the United States – most of which were inherited through recent acquisitions.
All our facilities in South Africa (SA) are built in an upstream direction. While building in the upstream direction has not been abandoned, certain specific countries have banned upstream construction – Chile due to earthquakes and Brazil due to high rainfall. Upstream facilities do pose a higher risk and hence require an increased level of management which has been practised for decades in SA.
The tailings storage facilities of the Group’s SA and US PGM operations, which were designed and built more recently according to more stringent parameters, are aligned with international best practice on tailings management. However, much work needs to be done, particularly from a governance perspective, in order for all of the Group’s tailings storage facilities to be fully compliant with the GISTM.
In South Africa, the principle management guidance document for tailings storage facilities is SANS 10286, the origin of which dates back to 1998. This standard contains fundamental objectives, the principles and minimum requirements for best practice, all aimed at ensuring that no unavoidable risks, problems and/or legacies are left to future generations. The standard does not, however, address the environmental issues or health and safety concerns of tailings storage, but places more focus on the need for management throughout the life cycle of a tailings storage facility. SANS 10286 in its current format falls short of the stringent requirements as contained in the new GISTM.
In the US state of Montana, new regulations (MCA 82-4-376) were promulgated in 2015 which are broadly reflective of international best practice in the management of tailings storage facilities. These regulations stipulate all storage facilities are to be designed using the most advanced practices and technologies available, requiring ample review and approval of design, operation, maintenance and closure by expert engineers ahead of construction.
Tailings storage facilities by region
SA gold operations
Operation TSF name/ map link Coordinates Status Hazard classification Risk exposure Operating methodology Date commissioned Life of TSF Current max height 1 Beatrix BTX1 (Beatrix Dormant TSF compartment) -28.28695, 26.7704111 Inactive Care and Maintenance High L Upstream,
1983 N/A 30 2 Beatrix BTX2 (Beatrix Active TSF compartment) -28.2736972, 26.7716583 Active High L Upstream,
2002 Oct-30 28 3 Beatrix BTX4 (Oryx TSF) -28.188975, 26.7037361 Inactive Care and Maintenance High L Upstream,
1981 N/A 20 4 Burnstone Burnstone TSF -26.6224333, 28.6782361 Inactive Care and Maintenance Low L Upstream,
2010 N/A 15 5 Cooke Mine Cooke TSF -26.2434528, 27.749525 Inactive Care and Maintenance Medium L Upstream,
1977 N/A 45 6 Driefontein Driefontein 1 TSF -26.2434528, 27.749525 Active High L Upstream,
1972 Mar-31 33 7 Driefontein Driefontein 2 TSF -26.3705278, 27.5026583 Active High L Upstream,
1972 Feb-31 33 8 Ezulweni Ezulweni North TSF -26.35345, 27.7256778 Active Medium L Upstream,
1982 Feb-30 31 9 Kloof Kloof TSF 2 -26.4434417, 27.5908444 Active Medium L Upstream,
1960 Aug-26 58 10 Leeudoorn Leeudoorn TSF -26.4601028, 27.5680028 Active Medium L Upstream,
1982 Feb-43 31 11 Cooke Mine Millsite Complex (38, 39, 40, 41, valley dam) -26.1317444, 27.7018139 Inactive Care and Maintenance, Dam 38 undergoing remining Medium L Upstream,
1900 N/A 50 12 Ezulweni Ezulweni South TSF (Cooke 4) -26.3811667, 27.7197667 Inactive Care and Maintenance Medium L Upstream,
1959 N/A 36
In recent years, Sibanye-Stillwater has undertaken various initiatives to improve its rehabilitation capabilities, particularly as they relate to tailings storage facilities. The flagship initiative was the purchase of a 50.1% shareholding in DRDGOLD, a world leader in the retreatment of surface gold tailings. This partnership allows Sibanye-Stillwater to leverage off DRDGOLD’s proven capabilities particularly in terms of:
- Reversing the environmental legacy of mining through the retreatment of tailings storage facilities
- Project managing the execution and implementation of surface processing infrastructure development
- Optimising innovative and technology-driven processing
Ultimately, the acquisition of DRDGOLD will help the Group to drastically reduce the number of legacy tailings storage facilities it has under its management.
SA PGM operations
Operation TSF name/ map link Coordinates Status Hazard classification Risk exposure Risk description and mitigation measures Operating methodology Date commissioned Life of TSF Current max height 13 Limpopo Operations Baobab 1 -24.3698, 29.4712 Active Medium L Upstream, Spigot 2002 2024 18 14 Marikana operations Eastern Plats TD1 -25.6870, 27.6042 Re-mining High L Upstream, Spigot 1989 Oct-04 36 15 Marikana Operations Eastern Plats TD2 -25.6872, 27.5957 Active High M Instability, extensive seepage.
Mitigation measures: Buttress under construction, planned completion September 2021
Upstream, Spigot 2002 2030 @2.5m/yr 31 16 Rustenburg Operations Hoedspruit -25.6727, 27.4097 Active High L Upstream, Spigot 2004 2036 @2.5m/yr 33 17 Kroondal Operations K1 (K1 Concentrator) -25.71306, 27.3296 Active High L Upstream, Spigot 1999 2025 41 18 Kroondal Operations K150 (K1 Concentrator) -25.7164, 27.35163 Active High L Upsteam, Cyclone 2001 2025 38 19 Kroondal Operations K2 (K1 Concentrator, K2 Concentrator in emergency) -25.71688, 27.3604 Active High L Upstream, Spigot 2005 2025 34 20 Marikana operations Karee 1 -25.6815, 27.4522 Inactive Care and Maintenance High L Upstream, Spigot 1989 N/A 37 21 Marikana Operations Karee 2 -25.6769, 27.4460 Active High L Upstream, Spigot 2001 2025 @2m/yr, 2031 @2.5m/yr 28 22 Marikana Operations Karee 3 -25.6769, 27.6769 Active High L Upstream, Spigot 2002 2024 @sm/yr, email@example.com/yr 28 23 Marikana Operations Karee 4 -25.6498, 27.4491 Active High L Upstream, Spigot 2008 2025 @2m/yr, 2049 @2.5m/yr 13 24 Rustenburg operations Klipfontein -25.708771, 27.384145 Re-mined High L Upstream, Spigot N/A 0 25 Kroondal Operations Marikana (K2 Concentrator) -25.732519, 27.40939 Active High M Seepage on NW & West flank.
Mitigation measures: Buttress construction ongoing, planned completion June 2021
Upstream, Spigot 1999 2035 KP 2020@2m/yr 22 26 Rustenburg Operations Paardekraal Central -25.6373, 27.3171 Active High L Upstream, Spigot 1983 2050 62 27 Rustenburg Operations Paardekraal PK4 -25.6273, 27.3053 Active High L Upstream, Spigot 2007 2050 19 28 Rustenburg Operations Paardekraal PK5 -25.6457, 27.3271 Active High L Upstream, Spigot 2008 2050 24 29 Platinum Mile Waterval East -25.6676, 27.3166 Re-mining High L Upstream, Spigot 2004 N/A 30 Platinum Mile Waterval West -25.6642, 27.3131 Re-mining High L Upstream, Spigot N/A 31 Marikana operations Western Plats TD1 -25.7085, 27.5093 Inactive Care and Maintenance High L Upstream, Spigot Pre 1980 N/A 23 32 Marikana operations Western Plats TD2 -25.7149, 27.5269 Inactive Care and Maintenance High L Upstream, Spigot Pre 1980 2031 34 33 Marikana operations Western Plats TD5 -25.6968, 27.5264 Inactive Care and Maintenance High L Upstream, Spigot 1980 Nov-17 63 34 Marikana Operations Western Plats TD6 -25.6745, 27.5582 Active High L Upstream, Spigot 2000 2030 @2.5m/yr 30 35 Marikana operations Western Plats TD7 -25.7020, 27.5409 Inactive Care and Maintenance High L Upstream, Spigot 1992 N/A 23
US PGM operations
Operation TSF name/ map link Coordinates Status Hazard classification Risk exposure Operating methodology Date commissioned Life of TSF Current max height 36 Stillwater Operations East Bolder TSF Stage 3 45.5059, -110.0850 Active Significant L Impoundment, Spigot 2001 2025 35 37 Stillwater Operations Nye TSF 45.3856, -109.8759 Utilised for water management Significant L Impoundment, Spigot 1986 N/A 30 38 Stillwater Operations Herzler TSF 45.4533, -109.7861 Active Significant L Impoundment, Spigot 2002 2027 54