15 August 2016
Luoyang, Henan province: first reports of a major tailings dam failure in China
Over the weekend reports started to surface from China about the potential for a major tailings dam failure at the Xiangjiang Wanji Aluminium plant in Luoyang, Henan Province in China. Aluminium Insider reported on 11th August as follows:
The People’s Republic of China’s Henan Xiangjiang Wanji Aluminum Co., Ltd. has shut down its alumina refinery in Wanji on account of the potential of a dangerous red mud landslide. According to CRU, the timetable for reopening the facility is not known at this time. A source from within the country indicates that the southwest corner of its red-mud dam body is unsound, threatening a red-mud slide. The Xinan town government, which oversees the town within which the refinery is located, received a report of same and dispatched a working group to the area shortly thereafter. The government required the refinery to cease discharging red mud at once for safety reasons. At the time of the report, over three hundred residents had been evacuated to a safe location, and ten dozen police officers have been stationed nearby.
As far as I can tell there has been no official confirmation of this story. However, the AZ China Blog has now reported that the dam has indeed failed:
Around 7pm on 8th of August, Xiangjiang Wanji Aluminium’s red mud storage had a landslide accident. Xiangjiang Wanji Aluminium is a private alumina refinery … The red mud storage which had the accident is located in Dahegou Village, in Luoyang, Henan province. According to local newspaper reports, the dam wall suddenly broke and silt mixed with stones from the mountainside rushed down, and the village was totally submerged. This village is home to around 300 villagers and they were transferred in an emergency evacuation. No one was killed or injured. The villagers are living in a primary school in Xinan County temporarily. Sadly, the red mud buried many farm and domestic animals because it was too late to save them. It has been reported that the dam held about 2 million cubic meters of red mud and was about 1.5 km in length.
Most importantly, they have posted an image of the tailings landslide:
This Google Earth image, dated from Frebruary this year, is the reported site of the tailings dam failure:
I don’t think that there is any doubt that the houses on the Google Earth image are the same as the ones in the image of the tailings landslide:
I think, therefore, that it is clear that a major tailings dam failure has occurred at this site. This is yet another disaster for the mining industry in China.