[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 | [email protected]

For Adam Olsen, B.C. Green Party
Stefan Jonsson, Director of Communications
1.888.473.3686 ext. 3 | [email protected]

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