One tough question for the BC Government

In the days since the horrific failure of the tailings pond dam at the Mount Polley Mine, and the silence that initially followed from our government and the company, one thing is clear to me.

Sadly, as a province we cannot in good faith, trust industry or our own government to ensure the safety of the public, or the environment.

The government states it warned the mine for years:

The company has stated he didn’t think this could happen:

And while the Liberals fully wear this one from beginning to end, according to the Vancouver Observer, this issue goes back to the late 90’s :

Enough is enough. I put this question to Minister of Energy and Mines,Bill Bennett on twitter, and I now ask the environment minister Mary Polak, and the premier, Christy Clark the very same question:


34 Comments on “One tough question for the BC Government

    • I believe it. But the public has the right to know they are safe, their communities are safe and that this will not happen again. It should never have happened at all, not now, not in prior incidents. It’s an unbelievable situation!

      This falls under our provincial governments jurisdiction, and they wear this completely.

      Anything less is being complicit to disaster.

  1. This goes back to day the BC Liberals won the election andthey started to push their agenda – which included walking away from oversight and passing the buck to companies to “self regulate” – one of Pinnochio Gordon Campbell’s favourite quotes.
    So yes Laila, you are dead right. The government wears this one squarely – but you can bet your bottom dollar they will try to squirm their way out of it.
    Oh – good luck trying to get some sense out of Christy Clark – the woman with the “deer in the headlight” look. She will try and say something but it will probably not make any sense.
    This is going to cost British Columbia untold amounts of money once the three ring circus opens up for business – the future is indeed looking bleak.

  2. I`m sorry I just got back from my jaunt to the decade of despair care of the
    Vancouver Sun. We should have known that the dastardly NDP were behind this !
    Always pulling the rug out from our benevolent Liberal overlords. Yup the denizens of deregulation
    NDP will never stop until this province is a desolate shell . We need to recall the NDP now so
    something like this never happens again under their watch ! Sarcasm achieved.

    • No one said the NDP were behind this, but facts are facts. The Liberals own this through and through.. and wear it well. Government must not only police but enforce – here they failed badly.

      That doesn’t mean history should be ignored as to past policy failures and changes. We look to the past and hopefully one would learn from that to avoid repeating the same mistakes again and again.

      Sadly the Liberals don’t seem to learn.

    • That’s why I don’t read the VSun. My blood pressure can’t handle it! It is not a surprise they are trying to spin the blame onto the NDP. If only all those damned socialists would move to Manitoba or somewhere, everything would be much better.

  3. Sounds like the United States. Why address a problem before it happens even when warned numerous times. New Orleans was forewarned its levees could not stand a direct hit of a hurricane for several years. And, so on… Best wishes in BC. BTG

  4. All great comments. Thanks for sharing your thoughts… it’s incredibly frustrating to see this lack of regard over and over again for the publics interest, on different issues. I can’t imagine how the people in the area are dealing with this, the frustration and hopelessness in some messages are pretty overwhelming.

    People shouldn’t have to question or fear for their safety living downstream or near any operation that has a tailings pond like this and I know for a fact now people are worried all over the province.

    Gov can claim all they want they acted in the full extent of their ability, but the duty lies with them to ultimately ensure the regulations,oversight and enforcement exists to get these corporations to act. And simply issuing a fine for non-compliance isn’t enough – if these facilities are not found to be engineered safely and properly, create legislation that allows them to shut them down until they do.

    Anything less is lip service. Public and environmental safety first.

    • I’ve worked in a number of occupations, all regulated by government some way or other, but what I want to say relates to the ones where safety for workers, the public or the environment is paramount, the most rigorously invigilated, like asbestos abatement: nothing gets attention— whether of an employer, a subcontractor or property owner— better than an official stop work order. That’s what should have happened at Mount Polley Mine when Imperial Metals neglected to affect dam strengthening recommended by an independent engineer. The work would have gotten done in a New York minute.

      It’s amazing how some blow off “red tape”, especially dismissively if it precludes incremental “savings” found in corner-cutting. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of stop work orders. Getting fingered as a whistle-blower (or “rat”, as ex- and future cons might call it) could end you up out of a job. Simply being the one who orders a work-stoppage for breaking rules (or merely the poor underling who has to post the terror-inspiring pink notice on the board) is usually less dramatic—maybe a shitty bunk in camp, or burn your dinner in the cook-shack…every day of your shift. But, believe me, when that notice goes up stuff happens pretty quick, sometimes even before the head cheese finds out about it.

      I’ve noticed in big outfits like logging companies or high-rise construction, it’s the underlings who most often see infractions but are most unlikely to report them; it’s the middle and upper supervisory ranks who caterwaul and thunder over the “injustice” of the hated desist order, but, if they’re capable, they’ll freak out and get the thing fixed before the boss finds out, hoping like hell he or she will never find out. It’s funny because any good boss would be appreciative and probably rewarding to whomever takes care of such a serious situation as a shut-down. Yet any good boss would also want to know how it happened and if it could jeopardize operations if it were to reoccur.

      Imperial Metals has a lot at stake at Mount Polley, and a big prospect at Red Chris which I don’t think it’d ordinarily put at risk by killing waterways. I dare say it might be somewhat a victim of an devilish circumstance: a mixture of natural wealth with a plurality of claimants, high metal prices, for now, and an inoculum of neo-right ideology resulting in a toxic bloom of BC Liberal culture that parasitizes the public weal to service a hierarchy of insider interests. In a better world, Mount Polley’s operations would have been shut down long before a disaster like this could have happened, long enough to have fixed the problem. In the perverse BC Liberal world, the company is now looking at huge remedial expenses, potential civil suits and a pall of uncertainty hanging over its other BC prospects. I’ll bet the profit it might have realized by not attending to those damn concerns look vanishingly small now. Now its name is mud and the sign bolted to its neck might as well plead “STOP ME BEFORE I KILL AGAIN”. Imperial is finding out the hard way that a solicitous cult of neo-rightists who promise to look the other way are not really your friends. And that isn’t just a ‘lefty’ sentiment.

  5. The Campbell/Clark BC Liberals, have always been a disaster for BC. They govern the exact same way Harper does. The BC Liberals will certainly lie their way out of this one too.

    This is a terrible disaster, that will certainly affect the F.N. people in the area. They rely on the fish and wildlife to help feed their families. BC’s Salmon take another hit. Who knows how far the poisoned water will travel? This is even worse than the Klamazoo, how does this poison get cleaned up anyway?

    As usual in this country and especially in BC, common sense is trumped by greed every time. There is no worse greed than the, oil, gas,and mine barons greed.

  6. Laila, they just finished doing that as a result of the Oliver dam failure. Didn’t they?
    Julie. the poisoned water will travel all the way to the sea. The question is: How poisonous is it? If it really is “drinkable, once the fines have settled out”, then perhaps not so bad. Don’t presume doom when the results will be available this afternoon.
    It is however, a terrible disaster and will affect not only the F.N.people, but the rest of BC. A big set-back to mining and the livelihood of everyone involved. And yes, a very real chance that the fish and wildlife will be affected. Lets hope not though.

  7. I believe they inspected all dams John… not all tailings ponds dams which should be included under the same spectrum.

    The issue isn’t just the water, but the tonnes of silt that now line the banks, the creeks, the lakes etc that will continue to contaminate everything when it rains, when it snows, when it leeches through groundwater…. unless that silt along the banks and everything alone with it is removed – and this has been done in other countries, scroll down two posts to read the study on one such breach in Spain – it seems likely to be an ongoing issue from what I have read.

    • There’s no doubt about it! The clean-up could be equated to Exxon Valdez or Kalamazoo.
      But let’s wait for, and insist on, the results. And not Bill Bennett’s made-up results either. I believe this one is close enough to home to generate real, impartial expert analysis.

      Isn’t it great that B.B has suggested that Imperial Metals may face a fine of up to $300,000! Wow, that might pay for a day’s clean-up effort. Add another four or five zeroes Billy boy. And ensure that the taxpayers AREN’T saddled with this one!

  8. Bumping this up here- contains links to other breaches and info links

    Also, this today:

    “ ”

    ” Bennett noted there are about 20 other operating mines (and several closed mines) with similar tailing pond dams throughout B.C. that are certain to receive a closer look based on events at Mount Polley.

    “I am losing sleep over this,” he confided. “This gives us about the best reason a person could have to really take a step back. Every Canadian has to be concerned about this.

    “This will cause everyone in government across the country to re-examine policies.”

  9. NAFTA environmental body wants to probe oilsands tailings leakage

    Thursday, August 7th 2014, 9:53 am

    the canadian press

    Investigators from an environmental watchdog set up as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement want to investigate whether Canada is enforcing its laws adequately when it comes to the oilsands.
    The Commission on Environmental Co-operation says Canada has failed to counter evidence that it’s turning a blind eye when it comes to toxic leakage from the industry’s massive tailings ponds.
    Canada has maintained the commission doesn’t have the right to investigate the issue.
    The move sets up a second fight between Canada and the commission, which was set up to ensure free trade doesn’t create downward pressure on environmental enforcement.
    Next Tuesday is a deadline for the three countries in the commission to decide if it will investigate how Canada protects wild salmon stocks from disease.

    Canada has already said it won’t take part in the vote.

    I wonder why eh Steve and Christie! One only has to see what has just happened here in BC to know why they don’t want any third parties investigating. I can only imagine what might be found.


  10. Toddlers pushing plastic lawnmowers alongside their Daddy believe they’re providing contribution of great value.

  11. Water Quality for pristine lakes do have guidelines for mining companies even when they unintentionally dump a whole tailing pond’s contents into the mix, BC regs not updated since 2003! INDEX to Water Quality Water Quality Guidelines; Water Quality Ambient Water Quality Guidelines for Arsenic ; Water Quality Water Quality Guidelines (Criteria) Reports ; British Columbia Field Sampling Manual: 2003 For Continuous Monitoring and the Collection of Air, Air-Emission, Water, Wastewater, Soil, Sediment and Biological Samples



    I have reasonable grounds to believe that pollution is being caused by the discharge of mine tailings from the tailings storage facility at the Mount Polley Mine site into the environment. The discharge is occurring from a property located approximately 5 kilometers southeast of Likely, BC and is legally described as Mineral Claim CB-20, Cariboo Mining Division, Cariboo Land District, own ed and/or operated by MOUNT POLLEY MINING CORPORATION. etc

  13. Where was the common sense in building these “ponds”? Surely, partitioning the pond into cells, so each is self-contained in the event of a breach would mitigate any problem of the magnitude we’ve just experienced. Why isn’t that required beyond a certain size? Building one giant pond to empty in one go was a predictable disaster.

  14. Pingback: The Mount Polley tailings pond disaster. What a difference a year makes. | No Strings Attached : Laila Yuile on politics and life in B.C.