MAC: Mines and Communities

Ghana's Gold Fields must shut cyanide heap-leach plant

Published by MAC on 2012-08-01
Source: Bloomberg (2012-07-26)

Third water violation in a decade

For the third time in just over a decade, South African-listed Gold Fields has been accused of allowing unacceptable discharges from its Tarkwa gold mine in Ghana.

In October 2001, thousands of cubic metres of the mine's waste water, contaminated with cyanide and heavy metals, poured into the nearby Asuman river, following a tailings dam rupture. See: Ghana: Cyanide Spill Worst Disaster Ever in West African Nation

Fourteen months later came a further release of potentially contaminated waters into the same river from an abandoned underground shaft. See: Ghana Gold Mine Spills into River Polluted in 2001

Last week, Ghana's environmental protection agency ordered closure of Tarwa's cyanide heap leach plant, following Gold Fields failure to adequately treat released waste water.

Gold Fields Halts Ghana Plant After Environment Agency Order

By Carli Cooke

Bloomberg

26 July 2012

Gold Fields (GFI) Ltd., the fourth-largest producer of the precious metal, halted a gold-recovery plant at its Tarkwa mine after Ghana said water discharged from the site required additional treatment.

“Gold Fields believes Tarkwa was complying with the prescribed conductivity levels in its water discharges, but is nonetheless conducting further investigations to validate this,” the company said in a statement today. The plant was stopped July 16 after a directive from Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency, it said.

Gold Fields sprays chemicals over some of the ore extracted at Tarkwa to liberate gold in a low-cost process known as heap leaching. The plant, 185 miles west of the capital, Accra, accounted for 28 percent of the mine’s 717,000 ounces of 2011 production.

Tarkwa is Gold Fields’ second-largest mine by output after the Kloof-Driefontein complex in South Africa, and has the third-lowest costs of all its operations.

Ghana’s EPA ordered the company to stop discharging water from the heap-leach site and to build treatment plants to reduce conductivity levels, the company said. Gold Fields will build the plants by the end of the year, it said.

“We’re talking to the EPA,” company spokesman Sven Lunsche said today when asked about resuming production at the plant. “We’re confident we can reach an agreement with them, hopefully within the next week or two, but it’s not guaranteed,” he said by mobile phone.

Gold Fields gained for a fifth day, adding 0.2 percent to 104.45 rand by the close in in Johannesburg for its longest winning streak since November.

Conductivity is a measure of the amount of dissolved salts in discharged water, Gold Fields said in its statement.

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