Tahoe Resources (TSX: THO; NYSE: TAHO) says it has contained a discharge of pregnant solution that may have flowed into a nearby creek at its La Arena mine in Peru.
The company estimates that around 600 cubic metres of the solution “may have flowed into the Sayapampa Creek via the mine’s water management system.”
Tahoe is blaming thieves.
Employees found five “significant” holes that had been cut into the top of a pipeline that transfers the solution from a leach pad into a pregnant solution pond. Tahoe says the holes were made so the thieves could then place bags of carbon inside the pipeline to absorb gold from the solution.
One of the bags of carbon apparently blocked the pipeline and the solution sprayed from the hole onto the top of the raincoat sitting above the pipeline, Tahoe explained in a news release.
“Subsequently, the solution flowed across the raincoat into a storm water collection pond designed to discharge clean water into the Sayapampa creek, which runs through part of our property.”
The discharge is just the latest in a string of bad news from the La Arena mine.
In April, the company reported a fuel spill from one of its diesel storage tanks at La Arena, and a strike that started on April 22.
The strike involved a disagreement over profit sharing, which is paid by all mines in Peru under the country’s labour law. Tahoe managed to resolve the strike, which ended on May 3.
The fuel spill in April occurred when a contractor overfilled one of the diesel storage tanks, the company said. Although the fuel spilled into the containment facilities, the containment drain valve had been left open by the fuel vendor due to continuing rains. As a result, between 300 and 500 gallons of diesel fuel left La Arena’s containment facilities.
The company has reported the latest incident to the Ministry of Energy and Mines’ (MEM) Agency for Environmental Assessment and Control. The police will also investigate the matter.
The company says it is “already in the process of addressing the contamination to the storm water management system,” and says it “does not anticipate a material impact to production at this time.”
It also says the discharge has been contained.
“Given that the impacted pipeline is a gravity flow line and the holes are at the top of the pipeline, the company is able to safely maintain solution flowing from pad 4B without leakage into the storm water management system now that the obstruction has been removed.”
Last year the open-pit heap leach mine, 480 km northwest of Lima, produced 195,600 oz. gold at total cash costs of US$599 per oz. gold, net of by-product credits, and all-in sustaining costs of US$837 per oz., net of by-product credits.
In addition to its troubles in Peru, Tahoe reported on Aug. 25 that 12 security contractors at its troubled Escobal mine in Guatelmala had been kidnapped.
The unarmed security guards were held at gunpoint and released several hours later and treated for injuries.
The kidnappers said they were members of the Peaceful Resistance Group of Mataquescuintla, which had earlier in the week blockaded a public road at the entrance of the municipality, about 5 km from Tahoe’s Escobal mine.
The company has worked for more than a year, it says, trying to resolve roadblocks near the mine without success.
Tahoe’s flagship mine has been shut down since July 2017. The troubles began when Guatemala’s Supreme Court suspended Escobal’s mining licence until it could hear an action brought by Calas, a non-governmental organization, against Guatemala’s Ministry of Mines (MEM).
Callas alleged that MEM violated the Xinca Indigenous Peoples’ rights of consultation before a licence was granted to Tahoe for the mine.
The Supreme Court reinstated the mining licence in September 2017, but the court also ordered MEM to conduct consultations with the Xinca within a certain geographic area and report results of the meetings back to the court within a year.
In October 2017, a helicopter carrying supplies to Escobal was attacked by small-arms fire from the ground, and the pilot made an emergency landing after a bullet pierced the tail of the aircraft.
In March 2018, the Constitutional Court asked for more information on the case, including an anthropological study of the surrounding communities to establish the indigenous population in San Rafael las Flores and several surrounding communities and a third-party review of the Escobal environmental impact study, among other things.
Tahoe’s annual export permit to ship metal concentrate from the mine has expired.
“During more than 300 days that have passed without the Guatemalan Constitutional Court issuing a final decision in the case of the Escobal mining licence, various violent actions have been carried out, not only against Minera San Rafael workers and contractors, but also against residents and community members,” the company states in a press release. “The lack of legal certainty has allowed these attacks to occur more often where, on repeated occasions, there have been reported attacks on supplier vehicles and helicopters.”