Last Tuesday night, in a Town Hall hosted by BHP Mining and the City of Globe, community members received an update on Old Dominion Historic Mine Park, which has been closed to the public since September 2021. BHP representatives discussed not only the company’s Old Dominion tailings dam project, but also a recent structural failure in one of the historic mine’s shafts.
According to BHP Arizona Mining Manager Kevin Ramsey, at the end of 2021 there was a partial collapse in the almost 140-year-old A Shaft, below the park’s iconic head frame. The collapse, which destroyed BHP water pumping infrastructure, was discovered at the beginning of 2022. Ramsey said a temporary pumping system has been installed; the water removed from Old Dominion’s underground workings is supplied to the Pinto Valley Mine.
Ramsey said the A Shaft collapse posed no risk of further, adjacent collapses and that, though conducting repairs around the head frame was “challenging from the operational safety standpoint,” there are no plans to remove it.
As for the tailings dam project, Ramsey said BHP was engaged in the first of several phases – the identification phase study, or IPS. Next will come a study phase, a detailed phase and the execution of a remedy if one is chosen. Ramsey said the three tailings dams at Old Dominion are rated “very high consequence,” meaning a worst case failure would have severe effects. He added, however, that the dams were very stable and that it would take a very strong earthquake to cause a failure. According to BHP’s tentative schedule the project is projected to continue into 2027; Ramsey said the work on A Shaft would be finished before that.
“Re-opening the park is the desired outcome, but we have to do the technical work and have that be a core component of the informing process,” Ramsey said. “BHP is unable to specify a re-opening time, due to substantial work activities across the site. We have multiple drill rigs and crews, people moving in and out, lots of traffic, and that poses hazards when you have uncontrolled access.”
Alexandria Dionne, from BHP Principal Corporate Affairs, said BHP will consider reopening the park for special events like Old Dominion Days, on a case by case basis, and is willing to explore the possibility of moving some of the park’s signage
and exhibits to another site. BHP has also contributed to alternative recreation projects – the Miami Gardens walking path, Globe Community Center pool and splash pad, downtown Globe murals, new playground equipment and new exercise equipment at the Globe Active Adult Center.
Asked by a Town Hall audience member whether work could be done Monday through Thursday, opening the park on weekends, Ramsey replied: “It’s hard to align work schedules against when members of the public may come out walking. We have had a number of instances of people coming past barriers and into construction zones.” On the chance of opening Old Dominion during the study and detailed phases of the tailings project, he said: “There is a possibility, but I can’t give certainty right now. We cannot at this point in time define what the access requirements are going to be; we haven’t completed the interpretation of the technical data coming from our IPS."