The Doe Run Company acknowledged Thursday it has experienced “some additional, unexpected surface settling, including one subsided area, two sinkholes and some associated surface cracking,” near the center of its property at the West Fork mine site near Bunker in Reynolds County.
The company recently announced it had successfully filled in three sinkholes at the site that first appeared in April as lead was reportedly being removed from the mine.
While the movement is near the toe of the tailings dam, Doe Run and the Mine Safety and Health Administration say they are not seeing significant signs of instability in the structure.
According to the company, it is “leading efforts to monitor these areas” and is working closely with numerous agencies, including MSHA and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, on plans to address the problems.
This hasn’t soothed the concerns of area residents who have expressed fear that sinkholes will start showing up around their homes and businesses.
Doe Run spokeswoman Tammy Stankey said the company is “seeking to provide the public as much factual data as possible to help quell rumors that have begun spreading in the last few days.”
Addressing the situation, SEMO Division General Manager Steve Batts said the company intends to keep property owners advised of future actions taken by the company regarding the situation.
“Although we are unsure what caused the ground movement, we are monitoring these areas closely and are taking measures to ensure the safety of those nearby, maintain the integrity of these lands, and collaborate and communicate with nearby property owners on next steps,” he said.
“On June 11 we noticed additional ground movement in proximity to the previous two sinkholes and notified the agencies,” Batts continued. “We are actively monitoring for added movements and are seeing very little change. Once we have an extended period of time with minimal movement, we should be able to continue geotechnical studies to determine the cause of the issue.”
In the meantime, Doe Run says its immediate action plan includes:
– Removing processing materials and chemicals from onsite buildings.
– Continuing to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and MDNR to redirect part of the channel of the adjacent West Fork stream. This transition will help manage excess water and allow the company to address and repair land impacted by ground movement. Doe Run anticipates the work to begin by June 27, once the plan has been approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
– While it says the event is contained completely within the West Fork mine site, Doe Run intends to continue daily monitoring of the site — including the dam and associated areas — as well as the stream, roadways and company property near the West Fork/Sutterfield Cemetery. It is also sharing reports with MSHA and MDNR.
“We’re also establishing points of contact at Doe Run and MDNR for landowners and others who may have additional questions or concerns,” added Batts.
He said residents may contact: Jay Doty, Doe Run community liaison, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 314-453-7620 (office); or 314-779-7135 (cell); or Brian Allen, Chief, MDNR environmental emergency response at www.dnr.mo.gov.
“We’d like to reinforce that as these activities take place — safety will continue to be our No. 1 focus,” said Batts. “While we don’t expect additional issues to occur, we do recognize that the ground may possibly continue to settle. As we’re working on these plans we encourage residents to contact us if they have any questions or concerns. We appreciate the collaboration and assistance of our local agencies as well as our neighbors.”
Sinkholes are depressed or collapsed areas formed by dissolution of carbonate bedrock or collapse of underlying caves. They range in size from several square yards to hundreds of acres and may be very shallow or hundreds of feet deep.
They are part of what is called karst topography, which also includes caves, springs and losing streams.
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or email@example.com