The tailings dam at the Gold Ridge mine. Photo credit:Pacific Scoop.

The tailings dam at the Gold Ridge mine. Photo credit: Pacific Scoop.

Gold Ridge in Central Guadalcanal has been declared a disaster zone.

Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology Samuel Manetoali made the declaration this morning following threats from the rising sea water levels at the Tailings Storage Facility at the mine site.

Mr. Maenetoali says the declaration is a disaster prevention measure taken by the Government to ensure the TSF Perilous condition is managed in the short term for the safety and well-being of communities living downstream.

Since last week and over the past several days, the TSF at Gold Ridge has received significantly huge rainfall and surface runoff as a result of the prevalent and prolonged wet weather conditions produce by tropical cyclone Raquel and its pre and postal depressions.

The storage facility has been filled up to an unprecedented level and that the risks of overflowing through the spillway or overtopping the main dam walls are high.

Meanwhile, according to reports from the Ministry, since Monday July 6th, the freeboard of the Tailings storage facility was 18 centimeters, a level it has never reached before.

More than 90 percent of the dam is less than three meters deep, indicating that it is already full of slurry or tailings and therefore very sensitive to even small rainfall.

Furthermore, the National Disaster Council was uncertain about the structural integrity of the dam wall given the high water level and lack of recent structural assessments, therefore appropriate disaster prevention measure must be applied.

The health and well-being of downstream communities are paramount in the decision to make a controlled discharge of untreated TSF water into the environment.

Mr. Manetoali says they are taking the best mitigation option  available to ensure the TSF’s perilous condition is managed in the short term for the safety and well-being of downstream communities.

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