Signs went up at the Old Dominion Mine Park (ODMP) on September 1 stating the park will close from September 12 through January 31 for drilling activity. Residents are asking for more information about what’s going on, why the entire park is impacted, and even if they are in danger.
For some background on the situation, BHP owns the property and holds ultimate responsibility for EPA compliance. The City of Globe holds a legal easement for the park, but the language of the easement allows BHP to close the park at any time for safety concerns. On February 29, 2020, half of the park was closed due to international concerns over tailings dam safety and a blanket decision by BHP to prohibit the public from access to tailings dams at all of their sites worldwide.
The ODMP tailings dams are stable, safe, and dry. Extensive mitigation work was already undertaken about 20 years ago. However, BHP made no exception to their safety proclamation. This meant the closure of the northern part of the park, which removed access to the park’s most accessible walking trails and the disc golf course. (For more information, please read the in-depth coverage of the situation in the February 2020 GMT article Chasing Our Tailings, www.globemiamitimes.com/chasing-our-tailings/.)
Since then, BHP has been working steadily to get the entire park back open. They started with 79 possible tailings dam remediation strategies in March 2020, narrowed this to 35 plans in March 2021, and now are looking at just a few remaining options. These include relocation of the tailings, partial relocation, buttressing the dams, and in situ stabilization (reinforcing the dams internally).
As to the new all-park closure, BHP needs to gather additional site characterization information to make the technical decisions required before choosing a final remediation plan. This will involve a lot of heavy equipment and drilling at sites around the entire property. To protect local residents (particularly small children who might be using the playground), they need the whole park to briefly close.
After this, BHP plans to reopen the southern half of the park while they spend months analyzing the site characterization data, subsequently pick a preferred remediation strategy, and then begin developing detailed engineering plans. BHP has a corporate commitment to complete high-risk tailing remediation work at all of their properties by summer 2026, a deadline the ODMP team is trying to meet.
The local BHP team is aware of how important the ODMP is to Globe-Miami residents and has actively supported alternative recreation in light of the closures during the mitigation work. Maricela Solis De Kester, BHP Manager of Corporate Affairs for Legacy Assets, says, “We are committed to addressing the recreational needs of a cross-section of the community – the elderly, kids, families, the fit – because COVID has really changed the way we think about our interactions and opportunities to connect with others.”
In the past few months, BHP began investing about $600,000 into regional recreation. They are building a one-mile walking path in Miami Gardens, investing in two new playgrounds and a splash pad for children, purchasing outdoor senior fitness equipment, and working to make Globe’s historic downtown into a preferred walking venue with watering stations and public art.
The park closure creates some unexpected opportunities. Solis De Kester explains, “While the park is closed, this can be a great time to bring in contractors to work on the playground.” She is referencing the much-needed replacement of safety surfacing in the playground, which BHP is stepping up to provide. The closure may also allow time to move the disc golf goals into the soon-to-be-reopened half of the park.
“For us, having the opportunity to be a partner and participate in recreation development is really a privilege,” says Solis De Kester. “We can contribute to the health and wellbeing of the overall community.”
Thea Wilshire works as an author, psychologist, speaker, healthcare consultant, and AirBnB host. Her passions include community development, the creation of public spaces, trying new adventures, and sharing her therapy dog with schools and medical facilities. Find her blog at https://www.acornconsulting.org/blog.