WHO: Gold ridge mine water safe
A WORLD Health Organisation (WHO) Rapid Environmental Health Impact Assessment of the Gold Ridge Mine has found that “conditional and controlled” release of untreated water from the Mine’s tailings dam is safe.
It recommends that this be done immediately, warning that an uncontrolled spill-over from the tailings dam could result in an environmental catastrophe.
The study was undertaken by The University of Queensland (UQ) for the UN agency, WHO, between December 2014 and February this year.
It was in support of the SIG’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services.
According to its summary, the study covered three main areas such as:
- The health-related quality of untreated TSF discharge water – based on analyses of all elements of concern such as Arsenic and Cyanide in the water and the sediments;
- The toxicity implications for the receiving waters in the event of the TSF waters being discharged untreated; and
- Discharge scenarios to predict the risk from contaminant-related changes in the receiving water system in the event of untreated TSF water discharge.
It was intended to “assess the current and ongoing environmental health risks posed by mining wastes and contaminated water discharging uncontrolled from the critically full tailings storage facility (TSF) of the Gold Ridge Mine (GRM).”
In particular, the assessment was to find out whether the untreated TSF discharge water would be detrimental to the health of the environment and the people who live in and use the receiving water system.
Contrary to popular belief, the study found that:
- The untreated TSF waters – as well as receiving waters – are not toxic to humans; and
- Discharge scenarios predict that there would be no direct risk to human health but that there might be longer term risks for environmental activities linked to the livelihoods of people – especially for fresh and marine aquaculture and aquatic ecosystem integrity.
It recommends that “conditional controlled discharge of untreated TSF water … commence as soon as is practicable,” largely because of the wet weather.
GRML, the subsidiary of St Barbara which owns the Gold Ridge Mine, is believed to have applied for a licence for the controlled release of untreated water but to date, the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology has yet to respond.
Conditional and controlled discharge of untreated water from the TSF will help maintain a low risk of an overfilling dam.
No comment could be obtained from the Ministry yesterday.
The minister and his permanent secretary left Honiara yesterday on their way to Japan for the PALM 7 Senior Officials meeting.