New Mount Polley report - B.C. communities and watersheds remain at serious risk of failure

by Keith Powell
Loretta Williams, Chair, First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining, issues statement on tailing dam failures.

Loretta Williams, Chair, First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining, issues statement on tailing dam failures. — Photo courtesy FNWARM

The B.C. government’s failure to honour its commitment to fully implement the recommendations of the Expert Panel into the Mount Polley tailings dam disaster in 2014 has left communities and watersheds across the province at serious risk of a similar – or worse– catastrophe in the near future, according to a new report released today.

The report, Mount Polley Mine Disaster Check Up: Inaction, Uncertainty and Ongoing Risks for BC, by Dr. David Chambers, a geophysicist and founder of the Center for Science in Public Participation in Bozeman, Montana, was commissioned by First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining. It found that not only did regulators fail to prevent the Mount Polley disaster, they have subsequently permitted activities that have not reflected a precautionary, accountable or transparent approach to addressing the ongoing problems and risks at the site.

It’s not only Mount Polley that’s still a threat. Other recommendations by the Expert Panel to put B.C. on the “path to zero failures”, by decreasing the current inventory of tailings storage facilities by half (from 123 to 60), and use Best Available Technology and Practices (BAT) in existing and new tailings facilities have also not been fully implemented. This means the Expert Panel’s prediction of an average of two tailings dam failures every 10 years has not been eliminated, and communities and the watersheds they rely on remain at risk.

The report concludes that a precautionary approach to public safety, not economics, should be the driving force behind new regulations for British Columbia’s mining industry - marking an urgent need for much greater transparency, consistency and accountability.

Quotes

“It’s unacceptable for the B.C. government to allow this ‘business-as-usual” approach to mining in general and Mount Polley in particular. Not only has Imperial Metals, the company that owns Mount Polley, faced no fines or penalties for the disaster, but the inventory of tailings facilities remains, and new tailings storage facilities have been built using the same technology. It’s another disaster waiting to happen.” — Loretta Williams, Chair, First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining

“Without fully implementing the recommendations, and ensuring diligent enforcement and compliance, we can assume that the risk level of two failures every decade has not been eliminated. The public and the watersheds we rely on remain at risk.” — David Chambers, geophysicist and founder of the Center for Science in Public Participation

About FNWARM

First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining seeks to promote environmentally sound mining exploration and development processes that respect First Nations rights and full participation. FNWARM is not against mining development of any kind, but it is against mining development at any price.

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