Tailings dam failures cause for concern

Chas Becket, Paynesville


SINCE 1960, there have been about 127 chronicled events of failed tailing dams in various parts of the world resulting in loss of life, community, agriculture and environment.

Many of the failures have occurred in first world countries, including Australia (www.wise-uranium.org/mdaf.html).

As a result of the tailing dam failures for miners in Brazil, shareholders are targeting the mining companies they invest in with their concerns.

According to the West Australian of June 8, 2019, mining companies worldwide have been prompted to take a closer look at their tailings dams after the recent deadly collapse in Brazil, given the potential for massive compensation payments, the disruption to their operations and irreparable reputation damage involved.

Never mind the loss of life, habitat and agriculture.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that BHP told investors that 32 of its 67 tailing dams around the world, which hold sometimes dangerous mining by-products, were ‘high risk’ or worse under Canadian Dam Association dam safety classifications.

With the proposed Kalbar’s Fingerboards Mineral Sand Mine, the 60 hectare tailings dam is upstream of the Mitchell River and the Perry River.

According to a Department of Primary Industry paper titled ‘Tunnel Erosion in East Gippsland Soils’, it will be sitting on unstable soils that may be subject to seepage.

Farmers will tell you that geo-fabrics lining their farm dams in similar soils only last two years and failure means loss of the valuable water storage.

Is the community prepared to trust the integrity of the tailing dam proposed in the Fingerboards Mineral Sand Mine?

Do we really need to have this Sword of Damocles over our delicate rivers, agriculture and communities?