Gold Ridge project at peril - Solomon Star News

Gold Ridge project at peril

28 October 2014

St Barbara has warned that the tailings dam at its largely abandoned Gold Ridge mine in central Guadalcanal is at risk of being breached in the approaching wet season.

Attempts to reach agreement with the government to act on a remedial action plan have failed to date.

And because of the security situation on the mine site, and damage to equipment since the mine operations were suspended in April, there are doubts if the excess water in the storage facility can in fact be pumped out in time.

Gold Ridge mine was hit by cyclone Ita in April which caused extensive flooding and damaged access roads, bridges and the tailings facility.

Work on repairing the damage started in July but employees were withdrawn in August when their safety could no longer be guaranteed.

“Subsequently, the site was temporarily overrun by local people, with significant damage to the tailings storage facility, water treatment plant and earthmoving equipment,’’ St Barbara reported last week.

No dewatering of the tailings storage facility (TSF), under discharge licences, has been possible since, prompting the company to warn that “management of the TSF is now a critical issue with the approach of the high rainfall season’’.

“While current water levels remain approximately 1 metre below the current spillway and approximately 2 metres below the main TSF wall, unless an active management program to lower the water levels is urgently implemented, water levels are expected to increase during the forthcoming high rainfall season,’’ the company said.

It has offered technical assistance and to pay for short-term TSF works.

“But no progress has been made towards establishing and then implementing an agreed solution.

“Despite Royal Solomon Islands Police Force personnel remaining on site in an attempt to secure the site infrastructure, vandalism and property damage are continuing to occur,’’ the company said.

The workforce of 700 people has been reduced to 39, and the company confirmed that it is in talks with the government about a possible transfer of ownership of the mine.

The woes at Gold Ridge were detailed in the group’s September quarter production report.

Gold output for the period was 68,823 ounces, down from 91,565 ounces in the preceding June quarter.