Managing Risks Associated with the Gold Ridge Mine Tailings Storage Facility


The Gold Ridge Mine Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) on the main island of Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands has been a constant threat to its surrounding communities since the April 2014 earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6, 314.0 km southeast of Honiara, Solomon Islands as well as heavy rainfalls since then. The TSF is part of a bigger tailings storage system which has been operating since 1998 with a 25 year 30km squared lease. The tailings storage system consists of the main TSF embankment covering 0.62km squared, a water treatment plant with separate (now combined) sedimentation and discharge ponds and a Return Water dam upstream for storing treated water to be reused in the gold processing plant. The closure of the Gold Ridge Mine in 2014 also meant that maintenance of the water balance in the tailings storage system could not be sustained.

In response to the request put forward by the Government of Solomon Islands, the United Nations is supporting the Government to monitor and analyze the water quality. Furthermore, as the Gold Ridge area is a declared a Disaster Zone, the Project will focus on the post dewatering environment impact assessment along with risk mitigation activities and extensive efforts in awareness raising activities with downstream communities. The Project will explore the potential economic impact of dam failure or an overflow of the spillway on communities downstream and more importantly the Guadalcanal Plains Palm Oil Limited further down the plains from the TSF.


The goal of this project is to identify and manage the risks associated with the Gold Ridge Mine Tailings Dam and Return Water Dam through the following immediate objectives:

  1. To design contingency planning response in the event of spillover due to heavy rain and dam collapse, based on assessments, existing knowledge and historical data, as well as the assessment of the surface profile and the contamination profile of the sediments in the tailings lake with specific focus on its stability as well as hazard assessment using appropriate modelling technique(s) to determine the most probable scenario of TSF overflow and failure of dam retention wall;
  2. To strengthen the existing capacity of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology, Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification, Ministry of Health and Medical Services, and other key stakeholders to effectively monitor the situation for risk management, early warning and response; and 
  3. To conduct an environmental and socio-economic assessment of potential areas which will be affected in the event of spillover and dam failure. This will take into account the possible economic loss of the surrounding areas’ economic activities, including the palm oil industry located downstream should its operation be damaged.

Who finances it?

The Australian Government and UNDP   USD $750,000

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