More questions than answers as silence on all fronts continues following Imperial Metals tailings pond breach.

Although I am taking a bit of a staycation right now, the videos and photo’s of the Mt.Polley mine tailings pond breach are so overwhelming I couldn’t help but take note since I know many in the area.

Although I think everyone realizes this is an environmental disaster, I don’t know that most people fully realize how epic of a failure this is, and what the short-term and long term impact is going to be. The amount of toxic sludge and water that was released is incredibly substantial.

However, what is concerning to me is the lack of information being presented by both Imperial Mines and the provincial government at this time.

First and foremost immediate efforts to stabilize the remnants of the structure should be presented to mitigate further issues and a plan in place to prevent any possible chance further contamination.

It only takes moments to google tailings pond failures/breaches to see how other mines and governments around the world have dealt with similar failures.

And a list of accidents here:

In some cases, efforts were immediately underway to prevent further contamination from rainfall etc entering the waterways furthers downstream by creating barriers. While the lists of toxic ingredients is different dependant on what material is being mined and processed, the end results are all still harmful, which is why they are retained in these massive tailings ponds.

Within a short time, ground crews and machinery were on site to begin removal of the toxic mud, as well as contaminate soil, flora and fauna.

The results of many of these accidents is chilling. Complete devastation of fish and fresh water aquatic life,loss of life of mammals who drink contaminated water, contamination. Already there are reports referring to the ‘sparse population’of the area,which had better not be used as an excuse for anything less than a full remediation of the disaster zone.

Without a doubt, questions remain as to why and how this happened in the first place. I haven’t had time to do more than a bit of research, but I do know that mining guidelines etc fall under provincial jurisdiction. Here is a link to the last available health and safety report online… oddly enough from 2012. Why is the report from 2013 not posted yet ?

Link to Mine Emergency Response Plan guidelines:

When was the last inspection on this tailings pond, and what was the result? Was the pond construction adequately maintained? Did the company have an emergency preparedness plan in place for a breach? If so, were those guidelines followed in this event? How does the company plan to mitigate and remediate the entire disaster zone?

And most importantly, how could such a catastrophic failure occur if regular,ongoing inspections and maintenance were occurring?

I guarantee this: Every mine tailings pond will be getting a thorough inspection if one hasn’t been done recently, and the tools do exist to assess internal stability of such structures safely, as per this document showing how the stability of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam was assessed following the appearance of two sinkholes.

*** update from National Post : Interview of Brian Olding of  Brian Olding and Associates, who prepared a report for this tailings pond back in 2011:

“As far back as 2011, concerns were raised about the tailings pond at the Mount Polley Mine. Brian Olding and Associates, an environmental consulting firm, prepared a detailed report that was submitted to the provincial Ministry of the Environment.

“We looked at the pond and we thought there was monitoring required. We wanted an emergency contingency plan in place.”

Olding was hired jointly by the Williams Lake Indian Band, the Soda Creek Indian Band and mine owner Imperial Metals to conduct an independent review of the Mount Polley Mine 75 kilometres southeast of Quesnel and prepare a technical assessment report on the proposed discharge of water from a tailings pond.”

Properly managed and with thorough environmental and health and safety oversight in place, mining can be and is a successful revenue generator for our province.

However, without adequate insurance of complete,transparent inspections, reports and provincial oversight and enforcement, residents near all mines should be asking provincial authorities today for assurances this cannot, and will not happen elsewhere else.


**10:50 am August 5th, BC Minister of Mines and Energy Bill Bennett issues a statement, nothing from Environment Minister Mary Polak yet, nor has a statement been issues by the official opposition at this time:

26 thoughts on “More questions than answers as silence on all fronts continues following Imperial Metals tailings pond breach.

  1. Given the BC Liberal Governments approval of “Self Regulation” as they run away from oversight (responsibility) in almost all things, it is no surprise to hear of a major environmental disaster – one that should never have happened.
    As irresponsible as this current BC government is, there must be accountability for what has happened all the way up the chain of responsibility, to the very top. The full weight of the law must be applied and followed by appropriate penalties – including periods of time in prison, for those responsible.
    You can be rest assured if any homeowner was to allow diesel or chemicals into a fish bearing stream, large penalties would be readily dished out to the homeowner. The same should be applied to the large corporations and government bodies that act in a similar manner.
    I must admit it will be very hard to make anything stick to our “Teflon coated” ,sorry excuse for a provincial government. But none the less, the buck stops somewhere and the government has been warned for years over tailings pond accidents.



  2. There was that severe rain that hit the Shuswap, the Okanagan, and the Kootenays on July 23. Kelowna had 2.5cm rain in 20 minutes if I recall correctly. What strain would 2.5cm rain over 25 square km of tailings ‘pond’ plus runoff from up hill add to a dam? What is the effect of rain like that on an earthen dam? Could that rainfall have triggered the failure?


  3. Well, LY, it all happened under the jurisdiction and enforcement of world-class environmental standards, didn’t it? You know, modern, immediate response containment equipment and trained personnel? Like Enbridge proposes. Like The Exxon Valdes had in place. Imperial Metals is no different from every other ‘exploiter’ of raw resources in the province from clear-cut logging in sensitive fish habitat to mining and pumping effluent into the nearby river. This one was an accident. Maybe. BC Hydro did some amazingly catastrophic fish kills in 1991 and 1992. We destroy by accident, inadvertently and on purpose. The privateers do it, the crown agencies do it, the companies do it and the government does it. And do you know what our world class response will be? It will be ten years of court cases and maybe a fine. As if filthy lucre can make up for filthy actions. World class means money. It does not mean clean rivers, healthy fish or happy people.


  4. Well, if this happened in the Ottawa River it would still be run in the media. I don’t want to sound like a whiner, but this is very important to all Canadians as it will show how the Conservatives will handle future spill like this one. This is a test to see how Harper’s appointing of Leona Aglukkaq as Environment Minister makes no sense, as she always has someone speaking for her on important issues. BC needs the media simply because we are so often overlooked or viewed as “that BC always complaining” Too bad that’s all I can say. Too F’ing bad.


  5. .. Bear Code nails THE key aspect.. You won’t see Stephen Harper leaving a partisan BBQ to inspect this disaster. Its safely ‘remote’ from Ottawalberta & no votes (ridings) at risk.

    And after all its just a pond ‘leaking’ .. as if only a beaver or two, and maybe a muskrat or surprised duck was swept over a small dam as well. No harm. Much like the tailings ‘ponds’ of Fort Chipewayn.. just little ponds… and what’s a few million toxic liters or barrels that will evaporate overnight


    1. The minister responsible Bill Bennet says, “This was a major incident and should not have happened.” Brilliant observation, BB. No wonder they pay you the big bucks. Aside from the fact that obviously minor incidents are deemed OK to happen, how does the minister conclude the accident should NOT have happened? Was the site recently carefully examined and determined safe? Was he recently there? Has he ever been there? And how is this site any different from all the other polluting sites that we have had and are destined to have? Are some of them supposed to happen? Waddya gonna say when Enbridge leaks? Methinks BB is an idiot and highly placed in the Liberal government because he is one of the smarter ones.


  6. How bout that world class mine tailing pond
    And world class forest fire prevention
    And world class transit system and social services computer system
    That’s a world class teachers strike also


    1. Sorry for the delay in posting, I have been on mobile all day, so I am just catching up.

      According to the president, the water is ” Almost drinkable”

      Yes, I would like to see him drink it. Not going to happen anytime soon because the water in that pond was not drinkable. Or let me clarify. You could drink it, but what happens to you afterwards comes with no guarantees.

      More later.

      FYI, this from a reader, was what their waste was for 2013….


  7. from the CBC

    “When asked why the dam failed, sending an estimated 10 billion litres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of metals-laden fine sand into Polley Lake​”

    from bill Bennett

    “10 million cubic metres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of fine sand into Polley Lake. ”

    anyone else see any interesting discrepancy? any idea which one is correct laila?


    1. my bad, one is cubic meters the other is litres….. so ….. ummm, yeah both statements are correct. I wonder why one would try to downplay the signifigance by expressing liquid in cubic metres though?


      1. Cubic meters is a common measure for water. eg water licences in BC are in cubic meters. I prefer to use litres because people are familiar with what a litre is.

        Government will, in a case like this, tend to downplay, ie the chair of the CRD saying that most of the debris stopped at the end of the creek, or the Energy and Mines minister saying today “and the flow may have continued into Quesnel Lake.”

        Any non-politician looking at where the newly huge Hazeltine Creek meets Quesnel Lake could probably safely assume that it did indeed continue into Quesnel Lake!


        1. Sto:lo tribal fisheries advisor states dead fish are already showing up along waterways….

          But don’t worry… the water is almost safe to

          Damn, I shouldn’t make a joke but that Imperials Metals president asked for it with this one.


  8. the water may be almost drinkable with out the heavy solids suspended in the water. I have friends up there in the environmental response business and none have been call out yet


  9. Key word is “Almost” know.. isn’t it? Because I bet your behind that the water wouldn’t be sitting in the pond even after solids where settled if it is was totally benign now, would it?

    Now, that just doesn’t even make sense, does it? At least not to me.


  10. Does a dam (Oliver, BC) used for farming covered by a different legislation than the resource sector which they call a tailing pond?

    BC strengthens dam safety, releases first Annual Report
    June 30, 2011
    VICTORIA – New rules around monitoring and reporting on the conditions of B.C.’s dams will improve dam safety, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson announced today as he released the first annual British Columbia Dam Safety Annual Report.

    Quick Facts: British Columbia is one of four provinces in Canada with a formal dam safety program. There are approximately 1,900 dams in the province including some of the largest structures in Canada. 1,200 of these dams are classified as low risk under the new Regulation.

    Click to access 2010_11_news_release.pdf


  11. July 16, 1970
    BC Hydro boss ………Gordon Shrum says pesticides safe and drinks glass of diluted 2,4,5-T on TV. “ Our chemists told me the only problem I had was getting the taste out of my mouth. It was like dirty crankcase oil, but I found that vodka was good for rinsing out my mouth. In any case the exercise was good publicity for combating SPEC – that’s the Society for Promoting Environmental Crap- propaganda.


  12. I have a suggestion: get some of the water, put it into two containers with lids, shake it up real nice, and give one to Bill Bennett and one to the idiot mine official who said he would drink it. Get the media together and present both idiots with a container to drink. Watch said idiots run.


  13. You really think the lieberals will review the conditions of the rest of the ponds and their dams? Really, you ought to know better than that. At most they will ask companies and individuals to look at their own dams. Does the province even have enough staff to do this quickly and properly? A few years ago a “private” dam on a small lake, failed, around Oliver or some such place. A couple of homes were destroyed. Was anything done? Nope. did other dams in the province get inspected? Nope, that is why we just had this “accident”. It wasn’t an accident. It was going to happen and it did. the lieberals want to ensure their “friends” in resource extraction don’t have to spend too much money so they can grow jobs and the economy. Well this is what happens.

    A huge section of this province has been destroyed and this government isn’t going to care. It will remain to be seen if any of the people are compensated and/or if we actually get to hear what was in the slurry.

    Now lets get all the lieberal ,M.L.A.s to go have a drink of it. Even better let them have their familes and pets have several drinks of it. They don’t seem to care that citizens of this province have to live in this disaster. Now what happens if all this poison gets into the Fraser and kills all the salmon coming home.

    Just remember, some of you voted for the government which allowed this to happen. Now you can live or die with it.


    1. ” “Analysis of these samples indicate that none of the chemical and physical parameter concentrations exceeded B.C. or Health Canada drinking water guidelines,” said a memo that was distributed with the results.

      All five testing sites had zinc levels above chronic, or long-term, exposure limits for aquatic life, which an accompanying memo said could be a problem if it persists.

      “Further samples will be collected to identify whether this concentration remains at this level over a longer period, which would indicate a greater potential impact to the most sensitive aquatic life,” the memo said.”

      This is, and has always been, my greatest concern… long term or ‘chronic’ exposure. To anything in the water, or in the sediment or solids that were left behind on banks, lake bottoms,creek beds,etc… all the areas covered in that grey nasty sludge.


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