The Solomon Islands Ministry of Environment has given the green light to Gold Ridge Mining Limited to begin DeWatering of the Tailing Dam.
Under Solomon Islands National Disaster provisions, the Department of Environment has licensed Gold Ridge Mining Limited (GRML) to release untreated water from its tailings dam, to reduce potential danger posed by uncontrolled spills of contaminated water in heavy rains.
Environment Director Joe Horokou said that, after advice in favour of dewatering from World Health Organisation’s (WHO) environmental experts, he has instructed the company to drain surface water only (dewatering) in a controlled manner from the deeper middle part of the dam.
Mr Horokou and other government Health, Mines and National Disaster officials spoke with more than 40 downstream community leaders at Tetere Parish Hall last week, explaining that this action is urgent, because the water is dangerously close to the top of the dam.
“Any more heavy rains could force contaminated water over the top from the eastern spillway, where the toxic tailings are very close to the surface, or even cause the dam to break and shed its poisonous contents into the river systems downstream,” he said.
“We know from months of testing – the latest only two weeks ago – that the dam’s surface water is well within the approved WHO guidelines for washing, bathing, fishing, gardening and farming, and will cause no danger to our citizens or the aquatic environment.”
The Director said it is also very clear that the shallow water near the slipway is up to 10 times more contaminated than WHO standards, and the government cannot risk an uncontrolled spill in that direction. The dewatering licence allows 47 days of controlled removal of water from the dam, approximately two centimeters per day or one meter over the licensed period.
Community leaders received posters with diagrams, and answers to their health questions, to inform their villages. They can use the information to show their communities why this dewatering was necessary and how they will be closely supervised and monitored by the government, he said.
Mr Horokou said the National Disaster Council called the Environment, Mines and Health arms of government to work together during the 47 days of dewatering, to ensure the safety of the downstream communities and the river and marine environment.
“WHO tests show that the water they will remove from the dam’s surface is fine for washing, fishing and gardening, but not for cooking and drinking. Provincial Health Officers have provided a list of 100 places where water tanks should be supplied, and the Ministry of Mines has already delivered and installed almost all of those tanks.”
NDMO has set up an SMS ALERT system with Telekom, so leaders can be updated on dewatering, and quickly reached with urgent concerns. They can call NDMO Operations via 955 toll free.
Source: Press Release, Government Communications Unit