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

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

A United Nations assessment team has recommended close monitoring and immediate action for a controlled lowering of water levels of the gold mine tailings dam in the Solomon Islands following the recent flash floods.

A media statement today says, the dam is currently stable despite the extremely high water levels, but in acute need of monitoring and management.

The statement says, only by continuous monitoring and controlled lowering of water levels can the threat of over spillage or breach posed to downstream communities and the environment can be minimised.

In early April, flash floods and heavy rains elevated water levels in the Gold Ridge Mine tailings dam, potentially affecting around 8-thousand people in downstream communities.

A United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination, UNDAC, team was deployed on 23 April in response to a request by the Solomon Islands Government to assess the risk of contaminated tailings water breaching the dam as well as to formulate recommendations to safely prevent such an event.

Meanwhile, the independent team of technical experts, in close cooperation with national ministries and community representatives, conducted several site visits and chemical analyses to assess the tailing dam’s stability and the potential risks posed by the tailings water.

UNDAC team leader Emilia Wahlstrom says they provided recommendations to local authorities to immediately prepare for the de-watering of the tailings dam adding that at the same time, they need to continuously monitor water levels, dam stability and water quality in order to avoid risks to nearby communities and the environment.

The statement adds, due to the time needed for such a controlled process, preparations will need to start immediately in order for it to be completed well ahead of the next rainy season starting in November.

Assessment outcomes and recommendations on immediate and longer term actions have been shared with the Government, which include on-site management, monitoring programmes and contingency planning.

The UNDAC team was deployed by the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit with the support of the European Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism.

The team left the country on 8 May.

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