Glencore assesses cyclone damage at McArthur River mine

26th March 2024 By: Mariaan Webb - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

Glencore assesses cyclone damage at McArthur River mine

The McArthur River waste stockpile (pictured 2023) remained in tact with no incidents of landslide or collapses reported in the facility.

After enduring the impact of a cyclone that brought unprecedented rainfall, commodities major Glencore is now initiating the process of restoring its McArthur River zinc and lead mine, in Australia, to normal operations.  

Operations at the Northern Territory mine were suspended on March 18 in anticipation of Cyclone Megan’s arrival, which ultimately resulted in a deluge of 274 mm of rain within a 24-hour period on March 19, surpassing a 50-year-old rainfall record set in 1974.

Responding to questions that have been raised by community members, Traditional Owners and the media, Glencore said in a statement on Tuesday that the mine had operated openly and transparently in what had been a challenging time.

“We continue to monitor, review and assess all our key infrastructure at site to continue to minimise the impact to the environment,” the company stated.

Glencore took proactive measures to ensure the safety of its personnel. It evacuated individuals from the Bing Bong loading facility on March 16 in anticipation of road closures that would isolate them. Mining operations were halted on the afternoon of March 18 as the cyclone approached.

Confirming media reports, the mining company stated that 208 workers were stranded overnight in administration buildings on March 20, due to rising floodwaters that cut off the internal road connecting the mining village and operational areas. However, Glencore emphasised that these workers were provided with essential provisions, including dry shelter, ample food and water, medical assistance, shower facilities and continuous power supply throughout the ordeal.

The following day, the stranded workers were relocated to the village after a 4WD road was constructed. A helicopter was also used.

Further, Glencore reported an incident where a vehicle carrying two individuals was swept into water when a causeway collapsed on an internal road on March 20. Both workers were rescued and, while shaken from the experience, they remained physically unharmed.

Reporting on the impact of the flooding on site operations, Glencore reported that the tailings storage facility exhibited remarkable resilience, maintaining its structural integrity without compromise.

Furthermore, Glencore said that the stability and integrity of the waste stockpile remained intact despite the flooding, with no incidents of landslides or collapses reported within the facility.

Although the openpit had accumulated water from the rainfall, with natural groundwater inflows and operational water being directed for containment, Glencore announced the gradual resumption of mining activities in the upper areas of the mine in a phased manner.

Highlighting the robustness of the infrastructure, Glencore pointed out that the flood levee wall at McArthur River was engineered to withstand a one-in-500-year flood event and that it performed precisely as designed.