Former owner disputes Solomons' mine environmental claim
Australian miner St Barbara dismisses claims by the new owner of the Solomons' gold mine Gold Ridge that they are facing an environmental disaster.
The chief executive of Australian gold mining company, St Barbara, says the new owners of the Gold Ridge mine in Solomon Islands must quickly start pumping water from its tailings dam.
The mine has been shut since floods last year and in May St Barbara sold it for a nominal amount to local landowners' company, Gold Ridge Community Investments Ltd.
The new owner claims the tailings dam is close to overflowing and it is facing a $US29 million dollar environmental disaster.
But St Barbara's chief executive, Bob Vassie, told Don Wiseman this is not true.
BOB VASSIE: Look I think as they released at the time, they were very pleased with the purchase back in May and nothing's changed since then. Our main issue as it stands now, is we are observers now but we are very interested observers, is that we simply can't understand why the new owners have not commenced pumping to de-water the tailing storage facility. I mean at the time of sale everything was in place to de-water, all the infrastructure, everything ready to go, except the government approvals. And now these approvals have been received, in fact, over a month ago. The new owners simply need to turn on the pumps, they need to flick the switch.
DON WISEMAN: Their concerns are that they're worried about the quality of the water, that they'll be feeding into the river, I know this is an issue that your company had considered earlier as well, but they are effectively suggesting that this is too much for them.
BV: Yeah look that's not correct because the state authorities have actually instructed them to release the water and the state authorities have cited the fact that the World Health Organisation has deemed it safe to do so and the infrastructure is there. We left it there ready to go, the power lines were stolen so we put in a generator. Everything is ready to go, they simply need to flick the switch.
DW: Okay, when they say they're facing a $29 million environmental disaster, to that specific claim, you say what?
BV: There has been no environmental incident and there won't be one if they simply flick the switch. Now if there is any water go-over, the figure they're quoting is around $30 million is nothing to do with the tailings storage facility, that's a number often quoted for total rehabilitation of the site and of course they, or the government, didn't want total rehabilitation of the site because you'd just take everything away and they'd never mine there again. So that is another bit of a misleading statement.
DW: What about the general environment around the mine, do they have any grounds for complaint there?
BV: No, but look really the new owners can talk about these things on the side, all I would observe is they lauded the agreement in the press when they managed to acquired the mine. Nothing's changed from our side. We do observe that there was a failed agreement with another Australian company, Frontier Resorts, is that it got in very quickly to do a deal with them and all that fell over. So I guess the dissatisfaction goes up, but really all that doesn't matter now, they simply need to turn on the switch to avoid anything happening on that TSF. I mean they've been critical, there has been no insistence to date and there won't be if they act as they are required to do. The government has instructed them to do it, they've got everything they need. We can not see any reason why they don't start pumping. the next rain could see some over topping and the new owners will be accountable because it's just so avoidable.
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