Thursday, August 14, 2014

Grizzly Gulch tailings impoundment breach would be catastrophic

Logging out the basin for the Grizzly Gulch Tailings Disposal Project above Pluma and Deadwood in 1977 helped to launch this blogger's love of the Black Hills.

Homestake Mining Company that also operated the sawmill near Spearfish, hired a local contractor who gave a farm boy and School of Mines dropout a skidder job. Future neighbor, Jim Whitlock wrote the proposal for an upgrade to the project.
Last Monday, a dam holding waste from the Mount Polley gold and copper mine in the remote Cariboo region of British Columbia broke, spilling 2.6 billion gallons of potentially toxic liquid and 1.3 billion gallons of definitely toxic sludge out into pristine lakes and streams. That’s about 6,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water and waste containing things like arsenic, mercury, and sulphur. Those substances are now mixed into the water that 300 people rely on for tap, hundreds from First Nations tribes rely on for hunting and fishing, and many others rely on for the tourism business. And thanks to lax government regulation in the US, an estimated 39 percent of tailings-pond dam failures happen in the states — a rate higher than anywhere in the world. Just six months ago, a pipe at a coal slurry pond in North Carolina opened, leaching 1.1 billion gallons of sludge into a river. [Tailings Ponds are the Biggest Environmental Disaster You've Never Heard Of]
Former Rapid City Journal reporter, Bill Harlan, became public relations representative for the underground lab built into the former Homestake/Barrick property. He writes:
Our water treatment plant removes iron from water pumped from underground. Under an agreement with Homestake Mining Co., we also treat water from the company’s Grizzly Gulch tailings impoundment, which contains trace amounts of ammonia. [press release]
Harlan wrote in March, 2004:
Erosion and flooding after big fires pose threats to people, property and the environment. The Galena Fire did cause flooding and erosion in Custer State Park. For example, in 2002, mud ran down the streets of Deadwood after the Grizzly Gulch Fire. [Fire boosts creek flow]
The issue is a perpetual threat:
The problem in Canada, the US, and elsewhere is that no one knows exactly what to do with these ponds. Much of the sludge they contain is too toxic to remediate and let back into the environment. As of now, the plan is to just let them sit there and hope they don’t fail.
Cook Lake Recreation Area in the Wyoming Black Hills has been closed due to landslide activity.

The GOP-owned South Dakota Department of Ecocide and Nepotism Resources says the Grizzly Gulch impoundment, a bird killer for most of its history, is good to go until 2035.

Unless it's not.

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