Cecilia Jamasmie | Mining.com
Solomon Islands locals living near St Barbara’s Gold Ridge mine are being warned of a looming disaster as the mine’s tailings dam levels continue to rise, risking to overflow.
The Australian miner has asked the country’s new government to agree to a managed de-watering plan to avoid an uncontrolled flood. However, authorities have yet to take any action over what the company has qualified as a potential mine disaster that may cost lives and have serious environmental costs, Radio New Zealand reports.
St Barbara’s CEO Bob Vassie warned in December that water levels in the facility were already too high and said he was worried on the effect of further rains expected in the next few months, the wet season. The company even posted ads in local newspapers warning locals.
But the new Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has made no comment beyond saying his government is currently recruiting international consultants to analyze the environmental and technical aspects of the mine, reported the radio station.
Gold Ridge mine began operations in 1998. After a period of being dormant, in 2010 a $150 million refurbishment and expansion project to around 100,000 ounces per year was started. St Barbara acquired the Gold Ridge mine in 2012 for over $500 million, according to the company website.
Gold Ridge is situated approximately 40 km by road from the Solomon Island capital city Honiara. Honiara is approximately three hours flight from Brisbane, Australia.
St Barbara last year produced 365,000 ounces of gold, with the bulk coming from its Gwalia mine in Western Australia.
The operation has been closed since April this year following torrential rains that caused extensive damage and led to the evacuation of expat workers.
St Barbara’s staff was subsequently ordered by authorities not to return to the site. When that dispute was settled In June St Barbara found a large number of illegal miners had set up camp at the Gold Ridge open pit.