From the Costa Rica Tico Times comes a long article on the human impact of the closure of the Glencairn Bellavista mine as a result of the downhill sliding of the heap leach pad.
As told in the Tico Time we learn of the joys of a mine bringing money and employment to the locals, only to have the mine shut down a year or two later. We learn of folk who foretold the fiasco the mine has become. We learn that the Costa Rican government has four to ten million dollars of the mine’s equipment locked up as a sort of security to fix the situation. It takes no great insight to predict that it will cost a lot more than that to restore the site to some sort of acceptable condition–it is clearly geomorphically unstable, and topographic change is inevitable.
The story as told superbly by reporter, Dave Sherwood, presents a challenge to all professors of Sustainable Mining: in short, explain this one in theoretical terms. The story presents a challenge to those who seek to hold Canadian mining companies operating in foreign countries to the same standards as mines in Canada; in short, to which Toronto court would you now drag the newly named company, Central Sun Mining (formerly Glencairn.) And it presents a challenge to investors: are you prepared to put more money behind Peter Tagliamonte as he seeks to open a new mine in Nicaragua.
We have written extensively about the technical aspects of the mine and its heap leach pad; or at least as much as we could glean from news reports, photos, and our experience. See this blog via it search routine, and the material at this link.
The story is fascinating because it captures in one frame all the issues of mining: Nice people developing new mines; good engineering consultants missing the one undetected geological weakness; towns benefiting from more income & social services; shareholders growing rich before their fortunes evaporate; regulatory agencies operating beyond their range of ability; and Cassandras crying in the wilderness, ignored, dismissed, and ultimately proven right.
One could hold a complete conference on the story and lessons learnt at Bellavista. We could have sessions on the geology, geotechnology, heap leach pad design, environmental impacts, regulatory issues, investment wisdom, social corporate license, reclamation, and the role of bloggers & reporters. I omit a session on Sustainable Development; I do that because I spurn the concept as mere big words with no meaning–or at least a meaning so obscure and elastic as to be worthless verbiage. I stand waiting to be corrected by its adherents–but to convince me you will have to explain the totality of Bellavista in clear acceptable terms–acceptable to me, the people of the town, the taxpayers of Costa Rica, and the shareholders of a renamed company.
Personally I think this is just a fascinating example of human nature in all its glorious diversity of ability, hope, striving, greed, and incompetence. No need for theory: just read the average fiction short story with brandy at your side, and it is all explained. Better still go to the opera.