St Barbara has withdrawn all its workers from the Gold Ridge operation after escalating safety and security concerns over the last 72 hours.
According to the miner this is due to ongoing instability at the site caused by torrential rains, as well as large numbers of illegal miners camped out in the pit.
“Operations at Gold Ridge were suspended in April this year due to torrential rainfall and flooding” caused by cyclone Ita hitting the site which forced St Barbara to suspend operations at the time.
1000 millimetres, a full metre of rain, was recorded over the four days preceding April 4, including 500mm in a single 24 hour period.
The flooding caused extensive damage to roads, including road access to the mine and a single key bridge, which isolated the mine from fuel supplies, food and medical supplies.
The open pits also suffered significant damage from flooding, with security risks escalating and endangering the 200 personnel onsite at the time.
Issues were the compounded by a Solomon Islands immigration ban, which made it three weeks before staff were able to attend the site for an assessment of the damage.
However since that time “the company has been unable to resume production due to a number of factors beyond its control,” St Barbara said in a company statement.
These include “the lose of a stable bridge across the Tinahulu River on the public road to site, and the continued presence of large numbers of illegal miners camped in the open pit mining areas”.
The miner is currently focused on site stabilisation works, and lowering the water levels in the tailings dam.
Image: ANU (Angela Wylie, The Age)