By Alfred Sasako
GOLD Ridge Mine stakeholders have angrily reacted to a cyanide research results published this week, describing it as “deliberately misleading and factually incorrect.”
The results were published in a front page article of the Solomon Star newspaper on Tuesday under the title, “Cyanide threat Gold Ridge, Metapona communities at risk”.
The research was undertaken by Dickson Boboria, a doctoral research student from the University of the South Pacific who is claiming that high levels of cyanide in sediments downstream of the Gold Ridge Mine Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) in the Guadalcanal Province are putting the livelihoods of Metapono communities at risk.
In a statement issued last night, the company said Mr Boboria’s findings “are in direct contradiction to the cyanide sampling results obtained from Gold Ridge Mine and accredited independent environmental consultants.”
“Gold Ridge Mine in collaboration with an Independent Environmental Auditor and
community monitors has in place a robust environmental monitoring protocol to monitor cyanide levels in the TSF and downstream. TSF monitoring has been in place from the inception of the mine in 1996.
“The results of monitoring from December 2017 show that cyanide is not present in the top five metres of the surface water of the TSF. GRML took sediment samples prior to and during the 2016 spill over event including locations downstream of the dewatering discharge pipe into the Tinahulu River and downstream of the spill over into the Kuara stream. All samples taken from rivers and stream were below detection levels of cyanide – less than 1 milligram per kilogram (<1mg/kg).
“GRML undertakes sampling of the TSF and downstream to robust good practice standards with the results analysed at an internationally accredited laboratory, Australian Laboratory Services. GRML is transparent in its approach. Relevant ministries and government officers receive a weekly report on the TSF which includes results of sampling as soon as they are received,” the statement said.
It said in addition, two independent sampling regimes complement the company’s approach.
“The National Public Health Laboratory carry out a sampling regime and The University of Queensland (UQ) on behalf of the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) have collected samples since 2014 and analysed them at internationally accredited laboratories. Sediment samples taken by UQ and SIG in 2016, started from the Chovohio River, all the way down to Metapono including Kwara and the Tinahulu rivers.
“The UQ/SIG research sampled sediment at a total of 19 sites, with the majority around or downstream of the TSF. The sampling included four sites along the Matepono River including one at the river mouth.”
The statement said cyanide has only been found in sediment taken from deep core sediment samples at an approximate depth of half a metre into the sediment layer of the dam. In January 2018, UQ and SIG undertook another program of comprehensive TSF and downstream sampling commissioned by the United Nations Development Program with the results to soon be released.
“I am surprised that the institution where Mr Boboria studies allowed him to publicly report data that is factually incorrect and misleading especially on a matter that has the potential to create uncertainty and emotion for downstream communities”, said Mr Walton Naezon, Director of Gold Ridge Mining Limited (GRML).
Mr Henry Tobani, the Independent Environmental Auditor for the tailings dam and downstream communities also expressed concern that Mr Boboria may not have potentially exercised his duty of care as a researcher in the manner in which he has presented his findings.
“We understand that the media can sensationalise reports, especially when presented verbally, but there is no excuse for what could possibly be blatant misinformation”, said Mr Tobani.
“It is usual for researchers to have a research method and protocol and to request
permission to access and use data. It is my understanding that Mr Boboria did not obtain informed consent from the designated Gold Ridge Mine representative to access site, so we are unsure where and how he got his data”, said Dr Fiona Martin, Gold Ridge Mine’s General Manager Community and Government Relations.
Dr Martin believed that this situation could possibly mean that Mr Boboria may have
breached his university data collation protocols. She expressed concern that the usual ethical and research methodological standards expected from a doctoral research student from a university of standing may not be in place for this project, which calls into question the research.
Dr Martin requested Mr Boboria to contact the Gold Ridge Mine environmental team to share and discuss his results.
“We are transparent in how we share our data and are happy to provide Mr Boboria access to our data to assist with his research. We expect researchers to extend the same courtesy and to discuss their research methods and preliminary findings from Gold Ridge Mine data with us prior to public release”, said Dr Martin.