A two-day field trip to the Gold Ridge Mine Tailings Storage Facility [TSF] this week was dubbed as a success according to the Betikama Adventist College [BAC] Head of Department, Mr. Horrie Raddie.
90 Form 4 students took turns to visit the TSF on Tuesday 27th April and Wednesday 28th April respectively. On Tuesday Class F4 A [45 students and 5 teachers] visited the site and on Wednesday the second group Class F4 B [45 students and 5 staffs] visited the site.
These students had a special opportunity to visit four different sites of the TSF and listened to presentations and explanations from company representatives.
GRML Director Ben Afuga welcomed the students and their teachers. He told the BAC students that they are the first students to visit GRML after the new takeover from previous operator St Barbara in 2015.
Afuga explained the new shareholding structure which local landowners now hold 10% shares in the Gold Ridge Mining Company in Central Guadalcanal and the benefits landowners will received through their local company Goldridge Community Investment Limited [GCIL].
“In the past we [LOs] were mere spectators. Today we are players. We no longer stand outside the field and spectate, but participate in the decision making and operations of the mine”, Afuga told the students and staffs.
Speaking at the end of the two days field trip, Mr Raddie thanked the company representatives and Henry Tobani, the Independent Environment Auditor for arranging the school excursion.
“Getting out from the classroom to visit the TSF has given my students something different. Thank you GRML and those that facilitated the visit.
“Being the first school to visit the TSF gives us a special privilege and a rare opportunity to see the TSF and the whole operating system. It is a privilege to come out and actually see the chemicals used and learnt first-hand about the legal requirements on how to apply the chemicals.
“I must admit it is very interesting to learn about the standards and legal requirements the company must adhere to. These are very important things to know, especially for the safety of the environment and the people downstream.
I believe my students have learned a lot from this field trip. Mr Raddie was also pleased to hear about the mining agreements between landowners and the company and the Government, in particular the benefits from the mine which are shared amongst the landowners, the Guadalcanal province, the company and the Government to help the country’s economy.
“I thank the company for extracting gold from this land to help everyone of us through the Government and Guadalcanal province. Betikama is part of Guadalcanal province.
Mr. Raddie gave an example about one of his school’s rundown staff houses. He confirmed Guadalcanal province helped renovate this staff house. “So, with the help of Gold Ridge mine, I’m sure we will receive more help from the province in the future”, he said.
Class Teacher, Mr. Jim Galia explains the purpose of the school excursion: “Mining is part of my students’ Science subject, in particular the mining methods, and one we have chosen was gold.
“We came here because many times we [teachers] taught students about the effects of mining in the classroom, so I decided to take my students out to see some advantages about mining, especially advantages for our country and the landowners.
When asked about any impacts the field trip may have made in terms of what he wants his students to achieve, Mr Galia replied: “Yes. I taught them about arsenic and cyanide because these are two chemicals that pauses threat to the environment if we do not handle them properly.
Mr Galia praised GRML Environmentalists for making good explanations about how these two chemicals work. “My students asked many questions specially at the TSF pumping site about how the two chemicals; arsenic and cyanide are treated before discharging.
“What I found when we took students out from the classroom is, they learn much better and learn more in a short span. They witnessed things and listened to people who are actually dealing with what they learnt in the classroom and from speculations in communities and the media.
“So, we are pleased to be here today to hear and witness how the TSF system and process operates.
Mr Galia encourages other schools to take their students out for excursions and visits to places like this TSF and learn about the advantages about mining because every time we only heard about the bad side of mining.
“I want students to come out especially F4 students who studied science to actually see what is happening at the TSF site rather than listening to theories in the classroom all the time.
He said these field trips or excursions can enhance students learning. It gives students the opportunity to see, ask, touch and feel what is happening out in the field.