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. http://www.mining.com/tailings-breach-at-imperial-metals-mount-polley-mine-40156/
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. http://www.tailings.info/knowledge/casestudies.htm
And a list of accidents here:http://www.tailings.info/knowledge/accidents.htm
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. http://moodle.telhai.ac.il/pluginfile.php/87349/mod_resource/content/0/references/aznalcollar.pdf
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 ? http://www.empr.gov.bc.ca/Mining/HealthandSafety/CI/Documents/2012_CI_AnnualReport.pdf
Link to Mine Emergency Response Plan guidelines: http://www.empr.gov.bc.ca/MINING/HEALTHANDSAFETY/EMERGENCYPREPAREDNESS/Pages/default.aspx
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. http://www.swedcold.org/Text/WORKSHOP%202006/Session%201/1420%202006-09-11-WORKSHOP-SteveGARNER.pdf
*** 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: