A crisis management team (CMT) set up by the government to investigate the recent chemical spill incident that affected 34 persons at the MNG Gold Mines in Kokoya, Bong County, is making efforts not just to unveil what might have gone wrong, but also institute stringent measures that would ensure that such an unfortunate incident doesn’t happen again.
It may be recalled that there was a chemical spill when a section of the geo-membrane of the Tailing Storage Facility (TSF) ruptured at the MNG Gold facility, affecting the victims who were taken to Phebe Hospital in Suakoko for immediate medical examination. The situation has since been greeted with angry reactions across the country—and the government, through the CMT, has since taken steps to remedy it.
The rupture resulted in an uncontrolled discharge of ‘slurry’ containing a high concentration of cyanide into the Sein Creek and the surrounding environment.
At a press conference on Tuesday, the CMT, led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), availed its findings by technicians who visited the site from October 5-7.
EPA Deputy Executive Director Urias Goll, who addressed the press conference, said: “No free cyanide (a deadly chemical used to extract gold) was detected in the nearby Sein Creek which had a concentration level of 0.310ppm during the first trip.”
All six hand pumps in the community, Mr. Goll said, were assessed but found no cyanide concentration, thus no impact on groundwater at the moment.
Compared to the previous assessment, Mr. Goll noted that the free cyanide levels have decreased by 44 percent from 0.966ppm to 0.540ppm within the TSF. “It can be accepted considering the limit is 50mg/L in TSF according to International Cyanide Management Code,” he said.
As a temporary measure to remedy the crisis, the EPA and CMT have authorized MNG to take some immediate actions. One of these is for the company to de-water the TSF that holds about 300,000 cubic meters of water under strict compliance with IFC standards and the Water Quality Guidelines of Liberia.
“A third party has been hired to conduct compliance testing and monitoring during the de-watering process. This de-watering process is intended to access the full damage of the TSF in order to ensure comprehensive rehabilitation and repair,” Goll noted.
MNG will construct a mini-dam (TSF) as an interim measure to continue its operations while the current TSF is being adequately repaired. However, the mini-dam is already part of the expansion plan developed by MNG.
The CMT also indicated that out of the 34 persons hospitalized at Phebe Hospital, only 6 have required further examination and the rest have been discharged without any complication. “We have not received the latest medical report from the 6 persons but will inform the public once the doctor submits the details of the examination,” he indicated.
MNG has provided food items (300 bags of rice, 4 cartons of chicken, 3 cartons of beef) and 4 poly tanks to supply clean and safe drinking water to the community for the month of October.
MNG–Gold is a Turkish Mining company working in several parts of Kokoyah District in Bong County. The company took over from the American-Liberian Mining Company (Amlib) in 2013 following a mutual agreement between the two companies.
The government, immediately upon the occurrence of the incident, organized the CMT, which has been working with MNG Gold and the community to amicably remedy the situation.
The CMT is also responsible to ensure that the impact of the disaster does not leave any side effects, long or short-term, on the affected communities, especially their sources of water. The CMT also wants to ensure that such a situation does not happen again.
The CMT will again visit the site on October 19 to continue its investigation. MMG-Gold suspended its operations since the incident on September 23.