Structure to receive permanent repairs in coming months
Ten months ago, the dam holding back tailings at the former Gullbridge copper mine in central Newfoundland failed.
© — Telegram file photo
Gullbridge mine breach in December 2012.
Now, the provincial government is preparing to put a permanent fix in place. According to a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources, it will be the first step in a long-term solution for the dangers still held at the abandoned mine site.
The tender for tailings dam rehabilitation work was issued Oct. 3 and will close Monday, Oct. 21.
On Dec. 17, 2012, a 25-metre wide breach — originally estimated at 50 metres — released waste from behind the mine dam out into the adjacent area, with some finding its way beyond the bog and trees to the waters of South Brook.
At least five provincial government departments were involved in the response.
As reported from documents obtained through an access to information request, two staff members from Environment were sent into the field the day of the dam failure to assess the situation between the dam and the brook and gather water samples.
“Access to South Brook below the dam breach was quite difficult. Partially frozen ground (bog), massive chunks of ice and an abundance of tailing made travel on foot very challenging,” noted a status update compiled by Haseen Khan, the director of the department’s water resource management division.
“As the tailings dry out, there is an abundance of dust and mud on the trees and vegetation. Environment and Conservation representatives were quite dirty and found their eyes burning.”
The water supply for the town of South Brook — located about 26 kilometres downstream — was put on close watch, with a non-consumption order issued.
After days passed and results from water testing came back clear from the local and mainland laboratories, the town of South Brook was given the OK to start using its water supply once again the day before Christmas, returning to regularly-scheduled monitoring.
Some cleanup of tailings was completed and the dam structure underwent emergency repairs. The temporary solution was inspected regularly over the months that followed, according to a department spokeswoman.
“There has been no further discharge of tailings from the facility,” she stated in a emailed response to questions in July.
About $2 million was set aside in the spring provincial budget for cleanup work, providing for the hiring of a consultant to look at long-term options and allowing for the tender call on the permanent fix for the dam.