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September 17 ,2021

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Farms and several houses at Matthews Ridge in Region One have been left inundated after a reservoir belonging to Chinese-owned Guyana Manganese Inc (GMI) collapsed, releasing a torrent of water that forced some families to climb trees in order to survive.

At around 10:30 am yesterday, the GMI security guard alerted the residents of Matthews Ridge that part of the mining company’s reservoir had collapsed. Residents immediately gathered at the area but could do nothing to avert the disaster.

According to Regional Chairman Brentnol Ashley, when he visited the area it was still highly flooded and from the information he gathered only two families were affected. However, he noted that while several families were affected they did not have houses but camps. The company, he said, has promised to assist but nothing can be done until the water recedes.

"Nobody can get into Matthews Ridge or out of Matthews Ridge. And Matthews Ridge residents also purchase goods to go to Baramita and to other communities, and if there is any emergency to go to Kaituma, you have to use the same road but it is cut off at this time,” he said.

Ashley disclosed that so far he has been unable to speak to the company but hopes that once the water recedes he will be able to communicate with them.

“They will have to do some remedial works to assist the community and decide how they are going to address the issues of the families that are affected,” he added.

The collapse of the reservoir was not surprising to residents as they had already warned the company and the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) that this would happen. However, their warnings were not heeded and business continued as usual.

However, as they predicted, the reservoir collapsed, washing away about 20 feet of the public road, isolating the community and flooding several farms and homes that were in its way.

NDC Councillor Noreen Bess described the incident as a flash flooding. “We have a disaster right now,” she told Stabroek News. “Families had to be rescued and farms are destroyed.”

According to Bess, before GMI had begun mining for manganese, they were given permission to transform a recreational lake into a reservoir to wash mud off the ore.

The residents were not consulted.

Despite that, the reservoir was constructed and the company continued with business as usual.

One of the residents who was affected said it was unexpected, despite it being predicted. “It happened very suddenly. We had to think fast but we can swim so we held on to the trees to help us,” she recalled.

Her family was eventually rescued from the trees by GMI employees. This was also confirmed by Ashley.

Up to yesterday afternoon, Bess said, the water current was very strong and they had only managed to rescue one family.

Air-dashing

GMI, which had to be shut down after the sudden death of two of its workers and the air-dashing of 10 others to China in 2019,  had its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Region One project approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in May of this year.

In a notice in the state-owned Guyana Chronicle newspaper, the EPA notified the public that the EIA for the mining of manganese by Guyana Manganese Inc at Matthews Ridge, had been approved.

It stated that the EIA has “fully complied with the Terms and Scope which were set by the EPA in consideration of the submissions made by members of the public.”

As such the company had begun mining activities in the region.

Bess revealed that apart from the family that was rescued, there are several families that would’ve been affected by the flooding but due to the force of the water, it was difficult to give an exact number. She did say however, that there were multiple farms along the way that are currently inundated.

In addition, a portion of the road which leads to Port Kaituma was washed away as a result of the breakage.

According to Bess, representatives of the company visited the area but did not say much, only that they would render some assistance.

Bess, too, remarked that the collapse of the reservoir was expected. “The water was reasonably high like 10 feet or more than what it was built to hold.  I was saying that after I saw it and when the rain started falling, I spoke about it and because I did, everybody tried to make me the enemy but I asked them to release some of the water even if  it was for an hour or two and then lock it. But they did not and this happened. They had only started to wash the mud off the manganese, when this happened,” she explained.

Another resident of Matthews Ridge, Carl Fraser, said that as a result of the situation, no one can access the community because of the washed-away road. He said that as a resident of the community, he made it his responsibility to highlight what the company was doing.  According to Fraser, the condition of the reservoir was made known months before its breakage, but nobody took him seriously either.

He informed that the reservoir was constructed just a little over a year ago and now this incident shows that GMI did not do a proper job with their project. In fact, he says, when representatives of the company arrived on the scene they told persons not to take videos or pictures of what had happened.

As result, many persons stopped. “I only took four pictures because then the police came and told us the same thing so I moved,” he said.

Asked whether the residents were in agreement with the EPA’s approval for the company to mine in the area, Fraser said that he has no issue but alleged that the company has never fulfilled its corporate social responsibility as it said it would.

In fact, he says, they are not paying the road toll from the area to Port Kaituma, despite smaller business persons being required to do so.

Since the company has been in the area, he said, there has been no improvement yet they continue to use the roads and nothing is being done for residents of Matthews Ridge. “This is something we have to take seriously and we are but our voices are not being heard. Is not only today we talking about this. You can go and look on my [Facebook] page and see this is not a new issue,” he noted.

Unacceptable

Bess and Fraser both said that that residents are not against the company and its activities but the way the company treats residents is unacceptable.

“The community is not against the company mining and are glad that they are here but the only problem is that the treatment they are giving to the community. We the members are annoyed about it.  We were trying to see how they would’ve done but they are here taking our manganese and not giving back to community. They are using the road but are not doing anything to maintain it,” Bess complained.

GMI was created in 2016, as a subsidiary of the Bosai Minerals Group of China, to invest in the resuscitation of manganese mining and processing in Matthews Ridge and export from Port Kaituma, the company’s profile states.

It says that the current investment will focus on the historic, previously mined sites located in Matthews Ridge. Ore mined and processed in Matthews Ridge would be transported overland to Port Kaituma for shipment to Trinidad and Tobago.

According to the EPA, the GMI has “adequately addressed” in the EIA, the views and feedback express-ed by the public during the statutory 60-day public review period.

A recommendation for approval also came from the Environmental Assessment Board and the EPA assured that the company’s EIA “has adequately assessed the potential adverse effects or risks posed by the project, and the Environmental Mitigation Plan proposed sufficient mitigation measure.”

In the EIA, GMI stated that it plans to invest US$75 million into the project to restart manganese mining in Guyana this year. “Mining will resume after rehabilitation of the previously mined site and infrastructure with the aim of producing 2.0 million tonnes of manganese ore annually for processing to turn out 500,000 tonnes of concentrates for intermediate shipment to Brighton Port, Trinidad,” the EIA states of the project plan.

In order to realise the project, GMI said that some 400 workers will be required over a one-year construction period, with 340 (85 per cent) being Guyanese, and the others being technical trainers and process specialists from China.

“At Port Kaituma, the construction of the Kaituma Marine Terminal will require approximately 200 workers over a 7-month construction period while project operation is intended to employ about 30 workers, of which 27 (90 per cent) would be Guyanese with the others being administrators and specialist technicians from China,” it added.

The extraction rates planned when related to current reserves yield a mine and project life of 13 years.

The mine was closed in March of 2019 when workers carrying out scoping works took ill and two – 47-year-old Zhenglong Zong, and 45-year-old Zengguo Ji, both Chinese nationals – subsequently died from what the company said was leptospirosis and respiratory failure.

A that time, seven workers were air-dashed to the city, where they were quarantined at the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH) after experiencing flu-like symptoms, which led to the death of Zengguo at the Pakera District Hospital. An additional six workers were subsequently air-dashed to the city for treatment at the GPH and Zhenlong died while receiving medical attention there.

After the two workers succumbed, the Chinese government made a request for the 10 sick workers – all Chinese nationals – to be flown back home for medical attention. This request was granted and the men were flown back to their home country.

A view of the road that was washed away by the collapsed reservoir
A view of the road that was washed away by the collapsed reservoir
An Environmental Protection Agency drone shot of the reservoir area.
Another section of the road that was flooded
One of the camps affected by the flash flooding
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A Comprehensive Review on Reasons for Tailings Dam Failures Based on Case History

Advances in Civil Engineering / 2019 / Article -- Academic Editor: Hossein Moayedi -- Source -- https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ace/2019/4159306/

Figure 1 --- Number and types of tailings dam failures in several countries.

Abstract

On a global scale, the demand for mineral products has increased substantially with economic development. Consequently, the mining of mineral resources results in the production and accumulation of a large number of tailings, causing many problems with respect to mining, the environment, and the economy. In the mining process, tailings must be reasonably treated to prevent them from entering the water cycle through rivers. The storage of tailings under water can effectively hinder the chemical reactions that they undergo. Therefore, it is a critical practice to store these substances in ponds or impoundments behind dams. However, tailings dams frequently fail, resulting in the discharge of significant quantities of tailings into the natural environment, thereby causing grievous casualties and serious economic losses. This paper discusses reasons including seepage, foundation failure, overtopping, and earthquake for tailings dam failures and explores failure mechanisms by referring to the available literature. This research has determined that the failure of tailings dams is closely related to the state of the country’s economy. Most of the tailings dam breakages in developed countries occurred decades ago. In recent years, the proportion of tailings dam failures in developing countries has been relatively high. Considering the serious damages caused by tailings dam breakage, it is important to understand the main reasons and mechanisms for their failure. The purpose of this review is to provide a reference for the design and construction to the building of the tailing dams and to reduce the occurrences of their failure.

2. Reasons and Mechanisms for the Current Tailings Dam Failures

On a global scale, there have been many severe accidents related to tailings dams. This paper summarizes the data on more than 300 events that have been collected and categorizes the reasons for tailings dam breakages into four root causes [21, 2830]. Key examples of tailings dam failures are summarized in Table 1, including basic information about the tailings dam failures including dam height, dam type, and fatalities. Tailings dam can be divided into four categories according to their construction methods [64, 65]. Figure 1 counts the number and types of tailings dam failures in several countries. North America is the largest region in the world for tailings dam accidents. The failure of tailings dams is often caused by multiple factors and, in essence, is due to the influence of the external environment, for example, through increased loading of the tailings dam, earthquakes, rainfall, floods, and dam foundation subsidence [32, 57, 66, 67].

Source & rest of article -- https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ace/2019/4159306/

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Last edited by Demerara_Guy
@cain posted:

TO DA MOUNTAIN TOP ..TO DA MOON BABAYYY...

Eh-eh Cain ....

From your permanent residence on the mountain top, you are now aiming to live somewhere near the moon.

Perhaps you may also be with Prasad who lives somewhere between the sun and the moon.

I used to live in Mathews Ridge and I cannot remember any time when the South Africans had a break in the tailing pond when they were mining for manganese there.

South Africa has the world’s highest number of environmentally dangerous tailing dams

By Tawanda Karombo, Published

https://cms.qz.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/RTSEZQ4-e1579200203304.jpg?quality=75&strip=all&w=1600&h=900Polluted water emanating from mining operations fills a dam near Johannesburg, South Africa, Sept. 24, 2015.

South Africa has the highest number of dangerous tailing dams—structures constructed, often by mining companies, to store waste in liquid form. The dams are considered hazardous if improperly handled and have resulted in environmental disasters and deaths many times around the world.

Wider environmental hazards arising out of mining operations in South Africa, and elsewhere in Africa, range from river contamination from chemicals used in mining processes to improper rehabilitation of mined out operations. Tailing dams have emerged as the latest significant environmental risk factor from mining and South Africa has the highest number of the riskiest of these, according to an investigative report by Reuters.

As the risk of collapse of these dams looms, South Africa still has memories of the collapse of a tailing dam at Merriespruit in 1994 which killed 17 people after flooding a Free State surbub. In 1974, another tailings dam at Bafokeng also failed. Only recently, a tailings dam operated by Vale in Brazil collapsed, driving a slurry of mining waste downstream towards a small town in the countryside and bringing environmental contamination.

There are three common types of tailings dams; Upstream tailings dams which are considered cheap but risky owing to the chances the toxic mining waste behind the dam structure erodes and weakens the structure, causing it to rupture; Downstream tailings dams which provide a minimal cover to the risk of collapse as they are designed to be stable but are more expensive to construct. The third and relatively efficient type is known as Drystacking and provides for greater opportunities to recycle the water from the waste contained in the tailing dam.

Now, of all the 262 high risk tailing dams in the 10 countries profiled by Reuters, the majority are located in South Africa with their architectural method considered to construct them deemed “unsafe by many engineers”. South Africa has a massive 52 active high risk tailings dams and a further 27 which are inactive, meaning they are currently not being used.

The South African mining companies say they are taking action, with Mark Cutifani, chief executive officer of Anglo American which holds big mining firms in South Africa, saying in 2019 that the company is now working on technologies expected to significantly decrease the volume of waste material produced from mines. These technologies leave less waste, allow for de-watering of tailings and offer energy options as well as water usage reductions.

In South Africa, there are growing calls for the cleaning up of the high risk tailings dams so that the waste can be re-processed and used to fill up mined out operations, thereby reducing environmental hazards. This is an approach that experts believe can help preserve natural water bodies by removing the contaminated tailings material.

“We can reduce the volume of waste and the toxicity of waste by using new technology available to us. The old days of closing and grassing over are unsustainable; we need to transition from one form of economic activity directly to another,” says Nikisi Lesufi, senior executive environment, health and legacies at the Minerals Council South Africa.

Eh-eh Cain ....

From your permanent residence on the mountain top, you are now aiming to live somewhere near the moon.

Perhaps you may also be with Prasad who lives somewhere between the sun and the moon.

That was mimicking the poster we had here who loved to use caps in his posts.

Last edited by cain

Another instance of the Chinese sucking the life out of Guyana. Neither the PPP or the Coalition seems interested in protecting the citizens from these predators. That they can walk into our country and treat our folks like shit angers me. Especially in a day and age when industry demand for things like manganese are on the rise.

Manganese mining at Mathews Ridge has to be deep now. The South Africans already took out the manganese close to the surface. Going deeper meant investment of much more money and both Burnham and Jagan were against South African Apartide (spelt wrong on purpose) so they left Guyana. Now only the Chinese are interested in investing their money in manganese mining there because they are counting on cheap labor to do the mine work as they go deeper to extract the manganese.

Last edited by Ali Khan Azad

Why are the Chinese in Guyana extracting manganese? The Chinese have figured out that manganese is an essential metal for future technology. They are trying to corner the Manganese market before the explosion in demand hits.  That means they are in control of most manganese mines in the world.

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