07 February 2018
The Gold ridge tailings dam.

GOLD Ridge Mining Limited (GRML) has dismissed findings of a research that claims high levels of cyanide were found in sediments downstream of its central Guadalcanal mine.

Researcher Dickson Boboria, a Solomon Islander studying for his doctoral degree, claims the situation has put the livelihoods of the Metapona communities at risk.

But Gold Ridge last night refuted Mr Boboria’s findings.

The company said the findings are in direct contradiction to the cyanide sampling results obtained from Gold Ridge Mine and accredited independent environmental consultants.

“Gold Ridge Mine in collaboration with an Independent Environmental Auditor and community monitors has in place a robust environmental monitoring protocol to monitor cyanide levels in the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) and downstream,” the company said in a statement.

“TSF monitoring has been in place from the inception of the mine in 1996,” it added.

“The results of monitoring from December 2017 show that cyanide is not present in the top five metres of the surface water of the TSF.

“Gold Ridge Mining Limited (GRML) took sediment samples prior to and during the 2016 spill over event including locations downstream of the dewatering discharge pipe into the Tinahulu River and downstream of the spill over into the Kuara stream.

“All samples taken from rivers and stream were below detection levels of cyanide – less than 1 milligram per kilogram.

“GRML undertakes sampling of the TSF and downstream to robust good practice standards with the results analysed at an internationally accredited laboratory, Australian Laboratory Services.

“GRML is transparent in its approach.”

The statement said relevant ministries and government officers receive a weekly report on the TSF, which includes results of sampling as soon as they are received.

“In addition, two independent sampling regimes complement the company’s approach.

“The National Public Health Laboratory carries out a sampling regime and The University of Queensland (UQ) on behalf of the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) have collected samples since 2014 and analysed them at internationally accredited laboratories.

“Sediment samples taken by UQ and SIG in 2016, started from the Chovohio River, all the way down to Metapono including Kwara and the Tinahulu rivers.

“The UQ/SIG research sampled sediment at a total of 19 sites, with the majority around or downstream of the TSF.

“ sampling included four sites along the Matepono River including one at the river mouth.

“At all sites, no cyanide was detected within the sediments sampled meaning that cyanide levels were below detection level (less than 1 milligram per kilogram (<1mg/kg)).

“Cyanide has only been found in sediment taken from deep core sediment samples at an approximate depth of half a metre into the sediment layer of the dam.”

The company said in January 2018, UQ and SIG undertook another program of comprehensive TSF and downstream sampling commissioned by the United Nations Development Program with the results to soon be released.

“I am surprised that the institution where Dickson Boboria studies allowed him to publicly report data that is factually incorrect and misleading especially on a matter that has the potential to create uncertainty and emotion for downstream communities,” Walton Naezon, Director of GRML, said yesterday.

Henry Tobani, the Independent Environmental Auditor for the tailings dam and downstream communities, expressed concern that Mr Boboria may not have potentially exercised his duty of care as a researcher in the manner in which he has presented his findings.

“We understand that the media can sensationalise reports, especially when presented verbally, but there is no excuse for what could possibly be blatant misinformation,” Mr Tobani said.

“It is usual for researchers to have a research method and protocol and to request permission to access and use data,” he added.

Dr Fiona Martin, Gold Ridge Mine’s General Manager Community and Government Relations, said:

“It is my understanding that Mr Boboria did not obtain informed consent from the designated Gold Ridge Mine representative to access site, so we are unsure where and how he got his data.”

Dr Martin said she believed that this situation could possibly mean that Mr Boboria may have breached his university data collation protocols.

She expressed concern that the usual ethical and research methodological standards expected from a doctoral research student from a university of standing may not be in place for this project, which calls into question the research.

Dr Martin requested Mr Boboria to contact the Gold Ridge Mine environmental team to share and discuss his results.

“We are transparent in how we share our data and are happy to provide Mr Boboria access to our data to assist with his research.

“We expect researchers to extend the same courtesy and to discuss their research methods and preliminary findings from Gold Ridge Mine data with us prior to public release.”