Residents of Brazilian Municipality Concerned About Future Stability of Canadian-Operated Mine

MiningWatch Canada

(Ottawa) Community members are concerned about a November 4 landslide at the Aurizona mine, operated by Vancouver-based company Equinox Gold, in Brazil's northeastern Maranhão state – just one day before the 3-year anniversary of the BHP/Vale Samarco tailing dam disaster. The mass of material entirely blocked the road connecting Gofredo Viana, the municipal capital, to the community of Aurizona.

According to the company’s latest Corporate Presentation (October 2018), Aurizona is projected to be an open-pit gold mine and currently in the “construction phase” with “ore stockpiling underway”. The mine’s gold pour is forecasted for the end of 2018. 

Videos of the aftermath of the slide, show the principal transportation route completely blocked by a massive pile of dirt and vegetation. Images captured by local residents also illustrate turbidity in a river and report that river water flowed into a nearby mangrove. 

MiningWatch Canada spoke with Rhylin Bailie, the VP of investor relations, on Monday November 5th. According to Bailie, the slide was a minor event and the company was not undertaking sampling of the surrounding area for contamination, since, “the material didn’t go through the plant” the company is confident that there is no risk of contamination.  

Bailie insists that the river next to the mine which was affected by the slide "is not fish-bearing, nor is it used for drinking water." MiningWatch has asked the local authority, Coordenadoria Estadual de Proteção e Defesa Civil to comment, but had not heard from them at the time of publication.

Despite the company’s reassurance that this was a minor hiccup in their operation, local communities are concerned about what this landslide will mean for the future stability of the mine and about the contents of the materials which slid into the river. Bailie informed us that efforts were underway to fully-asses the stability of the rock piles and that the company was not concerned with future events, saying, “We are not expecting any major rains which will give us time to strengthen the buttresses and stabilize the slope.”

Since the mine was is not currently in operation, stability issues will loom much more seriously when the mine commences production at the end of the year. Daily ore throughput is set as 8,000 tons.

Equinox says is is not planning on reporting the landslide in English publicly or to its shareholders, considering it not to be "material event."

On November 6, 2018, Equinox announced that COO David Laing was leaving the company. As of 2017, Ross Beaty owns 12% of shares and is the company’s chairman.