Cracks Inside Tailings Facility Force Newmont to Suspend Gold Processing

The Telfer mine located in Pilbara, Western Australia, has halted its processing operations following cracks that were detected at a tailings dam on site. Tailing dams are used to store mining operation byproducts, which can be toxic on mine sites.

The gold and copper and silver mine, which was discovered by Newmont Corporation (NYSE: NEM) (TSX: NGT) in 1972, is situated 200 kilometers east of the towns of Nullagine and Marble Bar and 400 kilometers southeast of Port Hedland. The mine is located in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia, on the land of the Martu people.

Mineralization in the mine’s west dome extends to a depth of 1,500 meters while the main dome extends to a depth of 1,300 meters.

In its statement, the company said that seepage and cracking had been found on an internal embankment. This led to the activation of its response plan, which included the closure of some areas near the mine while monitoring and analysis was done using drone and radar technology.

About two weeks ago, a spokesperson of the Department of Energy, Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety revealed that the company had told them there was no water or tailings seeping from the embankment. Since then, Newmont has given the department a geotechnical update, which helped inform the basis of the prohibition notice issued by the WorkSafe inspector. The notice, which limited the use of the tailings facility, was issued roughly two days after the company’s engineer of record stated that the stability of the impacted facilities was okay.

Sally North, acting WorkSafe commissioner, stated that the notice required that the operator restrict use of the affected area of the tailings facility until repairs were done. The department continues to collaborate with Newmont to make sure monitoring results don’t show any impact to the quality of groundwater as a result of the cracks identified.

Despite the suspension of processing, operations at the mine are still in full swing. A Newmont spokesperson stated recently that the company was liaising with regulators to smooth the path for the facility’s reopening. The spokesperson also revealed that the company would conduct a post-incident review to identify the root cause of this issue and determine ways to prevent it from occurring again.

Roger Cook, Western Australia’s premier, stated that the government expected to be able to make sure that the facility operated safely and with all environmental conditions taken into account. Currently, WorkSafe Mines Safety inspectors continue to monitor the situation.

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