Improving environmental practices through supporting tailings management
Donmatías, Antioquia, Colombia: Swiss Better Gold supported the enlargement and reinforcement of the tailing ponds in El Coral Mine, that were affected by heavy rains in 2021. This environmental project supports the mine’s tailings management, preventing leakages and spills.
El Coral mine is located in the department of Antioquia in Colombia. It employs 26 people and has been part of the Swiss Better Gold Initiative since 2019.
In a mine, tailings are the left-over material after the gold has been separated from other material. Tailing ponds, the ponds in which this material is stored and treated, can be dangerous sources of toxic chemicals when not appropriately managed. Their appropriate management is crucial to a gold mine, and one of the Swiss Better Gold Criteria.
In 2021, heavy rains caused landslides and floods that affected El Coral’s mining operations, especially the tailing ponds. The landslides reduced the ponds’ capacity, causing occasional spillages into the environment, which were actively monitored by the mine. However, in this condition, the tailing ponds represented an environmental risk because of possible contamination of local water bodies. There was also an operational risk due to possible sanctions from the environmental authority.
In order to control these risks, El Coral installed a wastewater treatment plant. Nonetheless, the dried sludge continued to fill up the ponds and the tailing ponds needed further improvements which were facilitated by this project.
- Comply with environmental legal requirements
- Protect the environment by preventing leakages, or a possible collapse
- Comply with the Swiss Better Gold Criteria “Tailings management”
- Enlargement of the tailing ponds
- Improvement of the waterproof membrane in the tailing ponds, as well as their walls and their bottom.
Picture on the left: before the start of the project
The total cost of the project amounted to USD 131’554 with a contribution of USD 22’457 from the Swiss Better Gold Fund.
- Environmental: Reduce the risk of contamination of the surroundings
- Environmental: Optimise the use of water
- Social: Contribute to protecting the health of the employees, and the 225 people living in the area and of the people coming to the area for recreational purposes
- Legal: Comply with the national environmental requirements for the management of tailings
Picture on the right: after the completion of the project
Date of project completion:
The enlargement of the tailing ponds and the improvement of their protection membrane and walls started in April 2023 and was completed on the 31th of July 2023.
El Coral’s staff is trained to operate the Wastewater Treatment Plant and to manage the tailing ponds. The mining operation will ensure their maintenance and their inspection.