A rare peek into the exclusive world of peer review of tailings dams. We hear so much about the need, and see so little of the implementation. Serendipity and the power of Google threw this report up as I searched for something quite different. I refer to the “Tailings Dam Review Board Report No 2, Marlin Project, Guatemala (March 2005).”

Construction of the impoundment is well under way, so I was intrigued by this statement:

“The model has demonstrated the ability to store the first two years of tailing and process affected water, and the rate and duration of discharge in subsequent years is estimated. Load balance calculations, based on conservative behavior of effluent constituents , have been used to explore potential contaminant concentrations in release waters in the absence of water treatment. It is intended that the release of water from the impoundment will be regulated to match stream flow in the receiving environment, such that concentration in the receiving water is below levels of concern. It is understood that MEG are currently in discussion with Guatemala regulatory authorities to establish suitable downstream water quality objectives and discharge criteria. MEG have committed to achieving international standards of water quality in the downstream receiving streams.”

In a report “Assessment of a complaint submitted to CAO in relation to the Marlin Ming Project in Guatemala (September 2005)” from the Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO) of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, I found this statement:

“Based on the current design and operational procedures of the project, the people of Sipacapa will not be at significant risk from any contamination to waterways as a result of the project….The CAO finds that the IFC’s required independent review of the Tailings Storage Facility, which includes the tailings dam, has adequately assessed the risks of the dam….The CAO believes that water quality issues can be readily addresses through additional assessments of water users, establishment of water quality standards, improved management plan implementation, establishment of provisions for mine closure, enhanced communication, and effective independent and participatory monitoring.”

From a December 2005 press release:

“Glamis Gold announced that its Marlin Mine in Guatemala has commenced commercial production, remaining on track to produce 20,000 ounces of gold in 2005. Marlin is expected to produce approximately 250,000 ounces of gold and 3.5 million ounces of silver in 2006. The mill has a throughput capacity of 220 tonnes per hour and gold recoveries are currently 90%. Underground operations are proceeding on three development levels in preparation for significant contributions from underground production by mid-2006.”

In a letter to the Senior Ombudsman from Glamis Gold (May 2006), James Schenck, Manager for Sustainable Development Guatemala, writes “Significant recommendations made in the earlier CAO review have been initiated or are already underway. One that we feel is important for both Marlin Mine and our neighbors is that of additional research on water. We have contracted the water studies and the data collection is beginning this month. Another important activity is that an independent community-based water monitoring association has been taking on-site water samples and we have been meeting with them to discuss and analyze results.”

In full disclosure, Andy Robertson is a very old friend and I have worked with and for him for over twenty-five years. He did not point me to the link or guide my idiosyncratic writing.