Update: Tailings dam collapses at former Gullbridge mine site

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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About 25 volunteers were unloading bottle after bottle of True North water at the town office in South Brook early this afternoon.

Stepping off the passing line and into the office, South Brook mayor Paul Mills gave his arms a break while he spoke with The Telegram about the potential contamination of the town’s water supply by mine waste.

The provincial Department of Environment has stated the a 50-metre-wide break in the dam holding back tailings at the old Gullbridge mine site, a shuttered copper mine about 20 kilometres from South Brook water supply.

“Our town water comes from a well, but if the water levels in the river are high enough, then there could be some cross-contamination,” Mills said. “We’re waiting for formal testing to take place.”

Residents of South Brook are being advised not to consume the water in any way until tests are completed by the provincial government. No details on the tests — what the tests are looking for or what area they will cover — has been released at this point.

“I expect it’s going to take a number of tests over a period of time before we’re given the all-clear,” Mills said.

Mills said, after being notified of the dam failing this morning, the town’s emergency plan allowed volunteers to be contacted quickly and required measures to be brought into place and notifications made.

The town is not in a state of emergency, he said, but has used the emergency plan to respond to the notice of the release of old mine waste.

Mills said bottles of water are being made available at the town office into the night and volunteers are delivering water to those calling in need.

As for cost, the company has "responded to our request for water and we’re going to do the settling up after the fact,” Mills said.


Earlier story:

The tailings dam at the former Gullbridge mine site has collapsed, according to a news release from the departments of environment and conservation, and health and community services.

The news release states, “The area of the failure is approximately 50 metres wide and the full height of the dam.”

Residents of South Brook are being advised not to drink the water or to use it for consumption, washing food or brushing teeth, as the town’s main water supply is 20 kilometres downstream form the site. Washing clothes, handwashing, bathing and washing dishes are considered safe, but further precautions may be necessary.

 A salmon river is also in the area.

Officials are sampling water on the scene and evaluating long-term repair possibilities. The Telegram will provide more information as it becomes available.

Geographic location: South Brook

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Recent comments

  • bar
    December 18, 2012 - 16:56

    this is not the first breach.are we safe ?we need a lawyer or erin brockovich.help!

  • Jared
    December 18, 2012 - 14:01

    Well if the goverment would do there job and inspect these dams and infracture more often these enviroment disasters wouldnt happen! How can you explain 100 million dollars clean up,how could it happen when you have gov inspectors suppose to look after these issues!

  • Knuckle Dragger
    December 18, 2012 - 07:33

    For heaven's sake someone from southbrook please film ALL this...bucket brigade, dam breach, and amke a youtube video so we don't forget this. Does anyone remember Cinq Cerf or Hope Brook (river and gold mine) and its cyanide leak? Ya still can't eat the Lobsters down there!

    • Chris Manthey
      September 23, 2016 - 14:43

      Knuckle Dragger-Please contact me at chrismanthey@me.com re Hope Brook cyanide leak.

  • Knuckle Dragger
    December 18, 2012 - 07:17

    One day we will actually get a leader!....and learn we can't eat money. This is insanity!

  • newfie away
    December 17, 2012 - 18:22

    what now, another $100 million dollar cleanup bill. these politicians wouldn't run a lemonade stand let alone a province. WHAT A JOKE !

  • Fred Winsor
    December 17, 2012 - 15:22

    Will this be the fate of Vale's proposed sulphuric acid tailings containment area, Sandy Pond, near Long Harbour some 30 or 40 years from now?

  • Eli
    December 17, 2012 - 15:11

    Is Charlene Johnson still defending Sandy Pond (Vale Long Harbour) as economically and environmentally justifiable? Fat chance.

  • consumer
    December 17, 2012 - 15:11

    its not the companies fault that the water is polluted. where did you expect them to dump their tailings? honestly, do you expect them to be environmentaly responsible? besides, the people can buy bottled water. get used to it people, there is worse to come. the days of havin a boilup in the woods is gone unless you bring clean water with you.

  • Eli
    December 17, 2012 - 14:40

    Anybody ever hear of Sandy Pond? Perhaps Charlene Johnson can give us some more words of wisdom why the coming disaster there is economically and environmentally justifiable. PC bobbleheads hardly covers it.

  • Jack
    December 17, 2012 - 14:13

    Due to considerable environmental damage tailings ponds can do to nearby rivers, the Newfoundland and Labrador Government must fix it as soon as possible, even during the winter time, and no questions asked. Shame on the Department of Natural Resources for failing to fix this pond and jeopardizing water quality in the process.

    • david
      December 17, 2012 - 19:35

      Whatever needed to be done should have bene before it broke. Now that it's broke open, all the damage that could have been done is done, anbd anby money spent now would be a complete waste....which is exactly why they indeed will now spend a fortune addressing the risk / danger / problem that used to be there. I know...expropriate it!

  • Dad
    December 17, 2012 - 13:49

    Why do mines insist in always dumping their tailings into fresh water areas? Can't they dump them in Dry Holes? Imagine, they dumped this toxic crap into fresh water and near Salmon stocks besides. Oh the humanity.