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[MEDIA STATEMENT] Mount Polley Report emphasizes need for paradigm shift in managing tailings ponds

January 30, 2015
For Immediate Release

Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Deputy Leader of the B.C. Green Party, and Adam Olsen, Interim Leader of the B.C. Green Party, welcome today’s release of the Report on Mount Polley Tailings Storage Facility Breach and say it raises important questions about how we store tailings waste in British Columbia.

According to the expert panel, tailings pond technologies, such as those implemented at Mount Polley, have not fundamentally changed in the past one hundred years. Yet, alternatives to conventional tailings ponds do exist and have been successfully implemented in other jurisdictions. The question is: why are these other technologies that have been shown to reduce the risk and impact of tailings failures not standard practice in B.C.?

“Going forward, we need to do more than simply look at updating new standards of practice and technologies,” says Andrew Weaver. “We also need to explore how the technologies and practices that we have been using - and that were used at Mount Polley - were allowed to fall behind in the first place.”

“Mining plays a critical role in British Columbia’s economy, and it is important that its economic contributions are matched with a commitment to safety and environmental stewardship,” says Adam Olsen. “What this report reveals is that business as usual is no longer acceptable for our mining industry.”

One of the key take aways from this report is that a thorough safety analysis should come before a conversation about the economic viability of a mine.

“With the government keen to open a number new mines over the next few years, it is important that we are acting on the recommendations of this report and ensuring that any mines that open can prove that they can safely operate and store their tailings” said Olsen.

The Minister of Energy and Mines, Bill Bennett, has committed to a number initial steps that will explore whether other tailings ponds are at risk of failing due to the same causes that led to the Mount Polley breach. However, there has not been enough clarity about the steps government is taking to look to address the underlying issues that have allowed BC’s mining practices and technology to fall behind.

“One of the most important comments in the report was that in order to achieve zero failures, incremental changes will not be sufficient,” said Weaver. “This critically important report provides guidance to both government and industry as to how tailings should be safely handled now and into the future using 21st century technologies and practices. It’s imperative that both government and industry act upon all the recommendations of this report.”

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Media contacts:

For Andrew Weaver, MLA
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
250.216.3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

For Adam Olsen, B.C. Green Party
Stefan Jonsson, Director of Communications
1.888.473.3686 ext. 3 | stefan.jonsson@greenparty.bc.ca

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  • lola lawton
    commented 2015-02-08 16:23:46 -0800
    this excerpt is the best explanation of the official report i have read sadly nothing as been corrected and the mine is in operation and opened a second mine same area last week corporate responsibility zero…..;(.Independent Expert Engineering Investigation and Review Panel
    Assessment, Review and Evaluation by Glenda Ferris: February 2015)excerpt)
    The conditions of foundation tills have been “known” for decades. That said, if the BC government and the Panel really believe that the only factor that caused dam collapse were those lacustrine foundation tills….those same tills exist under the entire TSF/Tailings Storage Facility at the Mount Polley Mine and its embankment dams. Rational thought would then require that this mine component/TSF be immediately and permanently de-commissioned. The embankments should be re-sloped, a Water Management Plan should be approved with Treatment Plant (and sludge disposal). This does not foreclose Mine operations; they simply need to build a water-recycle pond for their mill and to deposit mine waste into an empty open pit, already available at either Springer or Caribou pits.
  • David Ham
    commented 2015-02-05 07:10:07 -0800
    My understanding is that tailings either in a pond or in a pile contain toxic materials that will eventually leak or leach into local water maybe not today or tomorrow but eventually. Could the tailing material be placed in mined out areas of that mine or in older unused mines? I think the best place for tailings is back deep underground if possible.
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