Newcrest finds itself uncomfortably poised at the polar extremes of the mining industry’s relentless waste management dilemma.
Unhappy serendipity sees the accident-prone copper and gold miner working to recover the integrity of a thoroughly conventional tailings dam at a mine in distant western New South Wales while promoting plans for a big new mine in Papua New Guinea whose viable future relies on dumping waste directly into the Solomon Sea.
Production at the gold and copper miner’s most consistently profitable operation, the Cadia mine in NSW, was bought to an unexpected halt on March 9 by a “limited” breach in the walls of one of its two tailings dams.
It seems the emergency that is almost certainly destined to inflict more damage on Newcrest’s 2018 bottom line than it will to the local environment was most likely triggered by a small earthquake.
But, now 11 days on from the breach, Newcrest is still working overtime to assess the cause, and the best path to mitigation, of the loss of a 270-metres-wide, 100-metres-deep chunk of the wall that secured the waste stored in Cadia’s southern tailings dam.
For the rest of this column: http://www.afr.com/business/from-dams-to-deep-seas-at-newcrest-20180319-h0xomf