​Gold mine tailings dam close to collapse

St Barbara’s Gold Ridge tailings dam is reportedly close to collapse as its water levels continue to rise.

The mine in the Solomon Islands has endured a series of hardships after it was hit by Cyclone Ita late last year, which inundated the site and damaged nearby infrastructure, causing site instability.

The problem was then compounded by security concerns after the pits saw a number of illegal miners move in and camp on the site.

The miner than announced a decision to withdraw all workers from the site amid escalating safety and security concerns.

St Barbara then began discussions to hand over the operation to the Solomon Islands Government.

However it soon began butting heads with the Government over the improvement of Gold Ridge’s tailings dam dewatering conditions prior to the wet season.

In its quarterly report St Barbara said "management of the tailings dam is now a critical issue with the approach of the high rainfall season".

St Barbara added that "Gold Ridge has made many attempts over a prolonged period of time to agree a tailings dam remedial action plan with the Solomon Islands Government; GRML has not been able for some time now to pump water from the tailings dam in compliance with the current dewatering licence conditions due to the destruction of the necessary equipment and the continuing concerns about the security situation".

"We can't do anything of the nature we are looking at without the approval of the Government, in terms of environmental approvals. And those environmental approvals have to involve the local communities – clearly that is the case. Now we are not in a position to just do what we like there,” St Barbara chief executive Bob Vassie stated.

The miner added that "Gold Ridge has offered technical assistance to the Solomon Islands Government during the currency of the force majeure and to pay for short-term tailings dam facility works, but no progress has been made towards establishing and then implementing an agreed solution".

The Government hit back, stating that the tailings dam issue is only St Barbara’s problem to solve.

Now the situation is reaching a head, according to the ABC.

A researcher who visited the site last month said water levels are at critical levels, with the tailings dam nearing collapse.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.