KAMLOOPS - Management at the New Gold mine west of Kamloops are looking at how they can prevent a similar type of leak from happening in the future after 16-20 cubic metres of slurry leaked into a secondary dry ditch on site last night.
Environment and Social Responsibility Manager Scott Davidson says the small leak was detected sometime after 9 p.m. Monday and saw the valve shut down within the hour. Repairs were made to a damaged valve this morning during a planned maintenance shutdown.
“It was a gasket fail on the tailings line, which is used to direct tailings to different areas,” Davidson said. “It went into a ditch on site, it was contained in that ditch.”
He says the area where the failure occurred is regularly checked by shift supervisors.
“Operators were working the area, so they noticed it while it was starting to fail. It’s in a pretty visible spot,” Davidson says. “Supervisors do drive the tailings line several times a shift. We have controls in place and those controls worked.”
A vacuum truck was used to clean up the ditch today and tomorrow any remaining debris will be excavated.
The environment manager also notes the mixture, made up of ground up rock out of the mill, was non-toxic and never posed a risk of going offsite.
While it was not a large volume of slurry (about the size of a camper) the company does take the spill seriously, Davidson notes, and they will be conducting an investigation to determine how and why the failure happened to see if there is a way to prevent it from happening again in the future. The investigation has already begun and will likely be wrapped up by early next week.
“We like to start the investigation within 24 hours. We want to do it immediately, while it’s fresh in everyone’s memory,” he says.
Davidson adds these types of incidents happen ‘very infrequently’ at the gold and copper mine and reiterates in this case it was a valve failure and was not specific to the tailings pond.
“This was a leaking valve, nothing to do with the tailings pond itself,” he says. “What happened at Mt. Polley was a very unfortunate incident. Our spill response plan was in place well before Mt. Polley though.”
Last month a breach at the Mt. Polley mine near Likely, B.C. sent more than 17 million cubic metres of water and more than seven million cubic metres of slurry into nearby waterways.
A registered letter sent Tuesday to the operators of the Mount Polley mine from the Environment Ministry warns the company that the tailings pond was still discharging effluent into a nearby creek.
The ministry issued a compliance order to the company to take prompt action to shut down all discharge and make sure there's enough capacity in the storage facility to handle a large rainfall event.
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— With files from Canadian Press.
— This story was updated at 5:25 p.m., Sept. 9, 2014 with comments from New Gold.