In December last year the Gullbridge Tailings Dam, somewhere in Newfoundland, failed. Here is a link to the “best,” i.e., most comprehensive report that I can find. Seems like an engineering report prepared about a year prior to the failure resulted in a total lack of action and, as predicted by the report, the dam failed. Here is a link to the engineering report that lead to inaction.
Here are a few statements from the linked report on the failure:
The tailings dam at the former Gullbridge mine site has collapsed, according to a news release from the departments of environment and conservation, and health and community services. The news release states, “The area of the failure is approximately 50 metres wide and the full height of the dam.”
Residents of South Brook are being advised not to drink the water or to use it for consumption, washing food or brushing teeth, as the town’s main water supply is 20 kilometres downstream form the site. Washing clothes, handwashing, bathing and washing dishes are considered safe, but further precautions may be necessary.
A salmon river is also in the area.
“Our town water comes from a well, but if the water levels in the river are high enough, then there could be some cross-contamination,” Mills said. “We’re waiting for formal testing to take place.”
The following is from a rambling blog on the failure:
The provincial environment minister, Tom Hedderson, told CBC that the boggy terrain between the tailings pond and the water supply would help: ”There is 400 metres of bog between the dam and the river, and that’s where most of the tailings have ended up. It’s fortunate in a way, because that becomes a natural filter.”
All told the story has an immediate happy “ending:”
The government of Newfoundland and Labrador says it has lifted restrictions on water use for a north coast town. The town’s water supply is about 26 kilometres away from the dam, and the province’s Environment Department said the bog absorbed most of the runoff. The department says in a news release today that lab results taken from the town’s water supply indicate that it has not been contaminated.
Here is what little I could locate about the mine:
1967 — First Maritimes begins running mining and milling facility at site, sold later same year to K.C. Irving and becomes Gullbridge Mines Ltd. 1971 — Mine closes. About 2.8 million tonnes of copper ore produced during mine life. 1996 — Department of Natural Resources finds a washout in area of wooden “decant,” meant to prevent dam overtopping. Repairs made, metal culverts installed. 1999 — Rehabilitation work at site includes demolition of buildings and sealing underground shafts. No documentation available. 2009 — Province commits to dealing with immediate needs at abandoned and orphaned mine sites. Includes addressing tailings dam at Gullbridge. June 10, 2010 — Staff members with Department of Natural Resources conduct site visit, take photos of a crack/shallow failure in dam. Nov. 2010 — Repairs made to culvert area, decided culverts will be replaced following year. Nov. 29, 2010 — Site inspection completed by staff with Stantec for report to provincial government. March 2, 2011 — Stantec inspection report filed. June 11, 2011 — Stantec site visit for more detailed Dam Safety Review. Oct. 26, 2012 — Detailed Dam Safety Review filed with Department of Natural Resources. Dec. 17, 2012 — Tailings dam failure. Water advisory issued for South Brook.
What I cannot establish is who is responsible for the tailings dam, why the regulators failed to act, and who is now going to be excoriated. Let us know if you know more.