Highland Valley Copper Mine Impoundment
Highland Valley Copper Mine Impoundment

From the Northern Dynasty Mines Inc. site re tailings management. Regardless of your position, if you don’t want to be an Ecobot or unquestioning citizen, then a little independent studying from both informed sides is in order. Seriously, do you know when you are being played? Do you have a clue how to dig into the onion layer by layer or is that too hard? Probably easier to let others do your thinking for you….maybe not.

I have driven in and through Highland Valley Copper Mine, headed to Island Lake and Calling Lake. I did find it a bit massive and bizarre. However, so what. It was the first mine I had seen and the visuals are less important than how are the materials and waste handled. What really happens day after day? What mistakes can happen? What are the consequences? The fact that something could happen is not reason to stop. It is quite likely you will be in a car accident. Also, it is likely someone will be permanently hurt. We don’t stop driving. The fact so many people are hurt, maimed, die in MVA’s does not negate their use and frankly…really…the devastation of MVA’s far surpasses any damage done to fish. I mean really. Anyway, ramble aside, here are some sources re pro and con re tailings:

Highland Valley Mine
Highland Valley Mine

 “…. consider that the companies involved in developing Pebble have no experience in northern mining. Anglo American has never planned or built a mine in North America, let alone under the extremely difficult conditions at Pebble. Their partner, Northern Dynasty, has never planned or built anything. In its 2004 annual report, Northern Dynasty stated that Pebble is probably uninsurable because of accidents, spills, earthquake and “catastrophe.” Yet these companies want to build the largest-open pit sulfide mine in North America with the largest tailings dam ever built to hold back the tailings. Who will monitor this toxic waste after the mine is closed? Sooner or later, the ground will shake, and with the weight of the tailings dam and the naturally unstable geomorphology of the ground, billions of gallons of toxic tailings will slide down to the sea.”

 http://www.adn.com/opinion/story/497998.html (this is pre-vote comments, but doomsday certainty is stated here and the question is..how do we carry on accurate assessments with such hyberbole? There will always be uncertainty. Give policeman guns and sooner or later they will shoot an innocent bystander, but yet we have to go forth with armed law enforcement…we don’t stop even when accidents happen. All we can do is have oversight, laws, rules, risk management and diligent oversight. There are no guarantees, but there are dangers.  



Ecology of a hypersaline gold mining tailings facility in the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia: a case study

“No wildlife was observed to drink hypersaline mine waste solutions. Wildlife can differentiate between the tailings system in question and other water bodies and this is reflected in visitation rates, abundance and species composition. This study provides a detailed ecological study of wildlife interaction with this hypersaline TSF. Additional material will be published subsequently to further examine the mechanisms by which mine waste solutions in this tailings system pose a risk to wildlife. Limited literature exists on protocols for monitoring wildlife that interact with mine waste solutions within tailings systems. Knowledge of tailings dam ecology is required to develop site-specific monitoring protocols that adequately document the risks these facilities pose to wildlife.”


Tools for tailings management

Engineering and Mining Journal,  Oct 2001  by Carter, Russell

One of the ironies facing most mineral producers is that tailings-the process leftovers with the least market value-often carry the highest economic, regulatory, and environmental risk.

Producers face growing pressure to handle, store, and perhaps even reclaim tailings in a manner that satisfies increasingly stringent scrutiny from regulators, communities, and environmental groups. To be sure, most mine operators recognize that a haphazard approach to tailings deposition and storage may result in problems that can damage their company’s financial health as quickly and severely as a market collapse.

These failures underscore two basic elements of tailings management. First, although the mining industry can learn much from the design of conventional water retention dams, tailings dams are different; they are special-purpose structures that are constantly changing and subject to a different set of economic rules and objectives than conventional dams. Second, statistics show that tailings dam failures are overwhelmingly due to design, construction, or operational problems; not, as might commonly be believed, to natural catastrophes. Of 30 tailings dam failures occurring in recent years, only three were attributed to seismic activity.

Titre du document / Document title 

A critical review of the effects of gold cyanide-bearing tailings solutions on wildlife (Ausrraia)

Résumé / Abstract

“Wildlife deaths associated with cyanide-bearing mine waste solutions have plagued the gold mining industries for many years, yet there is little published data showing the relationship between wildlife mortality and cyanide toxicity. A gap of knowledge exists in monitoring, understanding the causal relationships and managing risks to wildlife from cyanide-bearing waste solutions and tailings”

“…wildlife deaths are more likely to occur at mines possessing copper-gold ores due to the formation of copper-cyanide complexes which is toxic to birds and bats. The formation of copper-cyanide complex occurs preferentially to gold cyanide complex indicating the relative importance of economic vs. environmental considerations in the tailings water.”




Peru fears Gold Hawk mine tailings rupture could pollute Lima’s drinking water supply

Peru’s Presidential Council of Minister has declared a state of emergency due to a potential tailings facility rupture, which could lead to a possible environmental disaster, as well as landslide danger at the Coricancha mine.

Author: Dorothy Kosich
Posted:  Monday , 21 Jul 2008 

“The Peruvian Government has declared a state of emergency, ordering Vancouver-based junior miner Gold Hawk Resources, (TSX-V: CGK)  to relocate some Coricancha mine facilities because of imminent landslide danger, and a possible tailings facility rupture that could contaminate Lima’s main water supply.

A 60-day state of emergency was imposed Saturday in the district of San Mateo after soil began to loosen around a waste facility at the mine, threatening to spill into the Rimac River, the main source of the capital city’s water supply.

The emergency decree calls for the relocation of the Coricancha processing plant and tailings area.”