Greed, speed, and engineering carelessness all led to the massive failure of the Bellavista heap leach pad in Costa Rica. The failure of the pad led to the closure of the mine and bankruptcy of the company. The massive failure is now the subject a major law suite: all parties ever involved are suing and being sued. It is ugly and will only get uglier. If the mine wins the legal battle and gets money, some of the money may be spent cleaning up the mess on the ground. But it will be years before the guilty are determined, and their insurance companies pay up, and by then water and slope failure will have spread the mess even wider.
The story of the Bellavista heap leach pad failure has been told often on this blog and elsewhere. I had assumed the story had gone away. But no, I was wrong. Seems the old man behind the mine is back and trying to reopen the mine. Here is an email that hit my in-box last week;
Just checking old newspaper clips, I reread your wise comments on the collapse of Bellavista in 2007. Names changed, now the company is B2Gold, but some faces are still the old ones. In 2007 Peter Tagliamonte (CEO) blamed God for the mess, promised forests and green pastures on the heap leach pads within only 1 year – but God again did not work well.
Now the company is back again, had some positive inofficial meetings with government officials and presented a “Plan Conceptual”. They seek permits to reopen the project avoiding an Environmental Impact Study, prefer just a permit addendum. The project would include a huge tailing pond in an area south of the concession.
I suppose You speak Spanish quite well, so your are welcome to visit our blog, with information, photos and commentaries about the new project.
Yours sincerely, Ursula
It is worth a few minutes to look at the photo album to see the movement that has continued. Sadly my Spanish is not good enough to make for an easy and quick read of the blog. So I am left wondering if the proposal to reopen the mine is bravado, folly, or a way to get some money to clean up the mess. My first instinct is that maybe the mine should be opened and made to pay every cent to the government to clean up the mess. At least that way the perpetrator pays.
I would make sure that an independent commission of international experts sits in judgement on every thing the mine proposes to do. They screwed it up last time; we cannot let them screw it up a second time. And I would preclude from the international committee all the usual peer reviewers who are over busy or are getting too old to stay awake in meetings. Now is the time to promote some fresh, younger, more aggressive peer reviewers and let them march this one into the future. And no academics–too venial and they should be doing research, not cozy consulting.
What happens to Bellavista will be a bellweather of the mining industry. For this is a most egregious example of mining haste, professional skating, poor consulting, personal carelessness, and yes, greed. Now the mine mess has to be dealt with, and we will see how this is done. For what is done will set the tone and approach to future mine failures.