They are three words the mining industry never likes to hear – tailings dam breach.
Fortunately this latest breach, at Newcrest Mining’s Cadia mine, 25 kilometres from Orange in regional NSW, won’t have nearly the same awful headlines that accompanied the tailings dam failure at BHP’s Samarco operations in Brazil.
No one has been injured, and the tailings that have escaped the northern dam have flowed into Cadia’s southern dam. It’s also worth noting that roads have reopened around that southern dam, so thankfully things as well contained as they can be. Newcrest says cracks in the dam were spotted during a routine inspection on Friday; the dam failed at 7pm that evening.
While some media outlets have been quick to link the failure to some seismic events on Thursday – a reasonable link given an earthquake last year stopped mining at Cadia’s underground mine for a period – the view from within Newcrest is that the tremors late last week were small, and not unusual given the Cadia mine is near a fault line.
So while investigations into the cause of the collapse are continuing, the breach is looking more like a man-made issue than some sort of act of God.