This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Little leadership in mining disaster

This week’s Duel topic: Can B.C.’s mining industry rebuild public trust?

An age-old bit of wisdom says, “You can tell a lot about a society by the way it treats its most vulnerable.” Likewise, after closely watching the response and actions following the disastrous breach of the Mount Polley tailings pond, it might also be said, “You can tell a lot about a government or corporation by the way it responds to a crisis.”

In the days since the dam breached, it’s been one public relations blunder after another for both the government and Imperial Metals. While Premier Christy Clark was scolded for not immediately taking a leadership role in flying to the disaster area to survey the damage, company president Brian Kynoch faced harsh criticism as well. In an effort to minimize concern for residents worried about toxic tailings material released when the dam broke, he made the now-infamous statement that the tailings water in the pond was “almost drinkable.” When asked if he would drink the water, he said he would — once the solids had settled.

There have been criticisms by First Nations in the area claiming they were not immediately notified by the company when the spill happened and other residents reported concerns over a lack of information in the first few days. As the story has progressed, documents have come to light alleging Imperial Metals knew there was a problem with the tailings pond dam, and the government did as well.

Public trust of the mining industry as a whole appears to have fallen to an all-time low. And that’s unfortunate.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

I’m not anti-mining. In fact, my dearly departed grandfather worked many years in the Bullmoose mine in Tumbler Ridge while I was growing up. Mining, strategically planned and managed with strict environmental oversight, is an economic engine that has sustained entire cities and contributes to our provincial revenues past and present.

Can public trust be rebuilt? …

READ the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/08/10/little-leadership-in-mining-disaster

12 thoughts on “This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Little leadership in mining disaster

  1. No. It can’t. But it is not entirely the fault of Imperial because the public trust is gone, evaporated, missing and non-existent with all our corporate, institutional and governmental relationships. They all lie. And we all know it. Our hospitals don’t tell the truth about bad doctors or super-bug infestations. Neither do our lawyers or politician about such mundane issues as our budgets. And the RCMP can never seem to find fault when an officer tasers some poor sap to death. Transit? BC Ferries? BC Hydro? The public does not trust all that professional PR and neither should they. PR is professional lying at an institutionalized level. It is entrenched in our culture. We hear nothing but lies BUT we most of us know it and thus – no trust. “How can you tell when they are lying? There lips are moving.”

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  2. The question is not about whether the public trust can be rebuilt. The question that should be asked is: How can we get this government out of office before they do even more damage?

    The internet is inundated with articles about how inspections have been reduced, how the company ‘nixed’ a more experienced company to check out the safety of the pond, and how the company and the government were informed about the risk. Professional people who have skills and knowledge about the mining industry are risking their careers by pointing fingers at both the company and the government.

    This government has been bribed with huge financial contributions from this and other companies, and the government continues to make excuses for this catastrophic failures. Bill Bennett stated in an interview on The World Today show on CKNW on Friday, August 8 at about 4:15 pm., that failures like this do not happen anywhere in the world, except maybe in a poor country.

    So are we now a third world country, or are we being downgraded to third world status to satisfy money-hungry companies who, for a few nice cheques, can have their way with this BC government? To hell with the environment, the forests, the water, and our food. None of that is as valuable as the product that can be extracted and exploited.

    Somehow, we have to push people to get involved in politics and take on this government that is wrecking this province. We don’t have to stop mining, but we need a government can be held responsible for its negligence. Such a government will earn its trust.

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  3. workforfun

    I cannot think of another entity that has lied as much as the BC Liberal government on everything.
    Sorry about the cynicsm, but it really all started with Gordon “Pinnochio” Campbell and his take over of the BC Liberal party.
    It is bad enough that we have a Federal government that is mired in controversy – from Robo-calls, attacking the Supreme Court of Canada, Senate scandal and government officials bribing, attacking anyone not agreeing to Conservative values, insulting Veterans, relaxing environment regulations etc.
    The BC Liberals really are treading softly on this – partly I believe, to see how the public reacts to the blatant disregard for environmental issues. Any single person seen just putting cloudy water into a fish bearing stream, river or lake would get the book thrown at them. Yet, a multimillion dollar company can get off with a wrist slap when they are responsible for an environmental disaster – the largest in BC’s history we are told.
    The company was told their earth dam was unsafe and that they were to rectify the situation – which they failed to do. The government sat there and let the company do what it wanted resulting in the total dam failure.
    In my book, the BC government is just as guilty as is the mining company.
    In short, no one can be trusted these days especially with the “deregulation policies” that the BC Liberals hold so high.
    Throw the book at both the BC Liberal government and the mining company.
    I sure hope that the local residents that have had their lives, livelihoods ruined, sue both entities. Someone is to blame and it isn’t the local residents and workers.

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  4. Accountability exactly!

    No current party will offer its member/voters a written defined plan of transparency, accountability and consequences (teeth) to back it up when MLAs and government proceed against the public will and create the situations we are witnessing right now. Except the BC Refed party who have already been “proactive” in this regard. As demonstrated below:

    Excerpt:

    “Responsibility of MLAs

    All MLAs and government personnel will be held responsible for their conduct, work ethic and all activity within a portfolio.

    An example of responsibility in the social services department might include the death of a child in care. The minister assigned would bear responsibility for any findings of neglect to investigate, or neglect to act upon previous warning of trouble, etc.

    An example of responsibility in the healthcare department might include the death of a patient who was not properly cared for or released without regard for the person’s ability to independently survive and/or be safe.

    An example of responsibility in the forestry department might include the neglect of logging companies to replant logged areas, the stability of infrastructure or removal of same, management of potential slide areas etc.

    An example of responsibility in the department of the environment might include oil spills, the regulation and/or failure of vessels or pipelines, contamination of waterways by neglect or lack of regulation and/or inspections.

    MLAs and other government staff may be held responsible for negligence or failure to serve. Parliamentary privilege may be denied. See Parliamentary Privilege.”

    http://bcrefed.com/resource/Rules/index.html

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    1. Laila

      http://www.bcbusiness.ca/natural-resources/mount-polley-happened-now-what-the-greens-have-an-idea

      The Greens have been the only party thus far to call for independent inspections of other tailings ponds in the province as well -something that others have called for as well… and with good reason:

      ” There are about 20 other operating mines and a number of abandoned mines with similar tailing pond dams in B.C. If they were built to the same standards as Mount Polley’s, and are monitored under the same protocols, every one of them must presumably be considered at risk of a sudden, unexplained collapse.

      From Stephen Hume: http://www.vancouversun.com/Stephen+Hume+Independent+review+needed+following+Mount+Polley+collapse/10106669/story.html

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  5. Federal politicians have rules and regulations designed to protect the Environment from a Mine’s tailing impoundment areas, but what do they have to say about Mount Polley breach and contamination of a water body frequented by fish?

    These guidelines describe the process that must be undertaken when a proponent is considering using a natural water body frequented by fish as a Tailings Impoundment Areas (TIA) such that a regulatory amendment to the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER) would be required. In the context of these guidelines, the term TIA refers to a natural water body frequented by fish into which deleterious substances (such as tailings, waste rock, low-grade ore, overburden, and any effluent that contains any concentration of the deleterious substances specified in the MMER, and of any pH) are disposed.

    http://ec.gc.ca/pollution/default.asp?lang=En&n=125349F7-1&offset=1&toc=show#s1-1

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  6. Mosko

    We have permanently lost trust in all authority. We might be to blame because we have not asked for accountability. How many of us right newspaper, MP’s MLA’s and regulatory bodies to complain or pass on information? How many of us demand honesty and accountability by voting out parties with no integrity? BC voted the Liberals in despite scandal after scandal over ethics, honesty and trust. Most people seem to be comfortable enough on a day to day basis to ignore these things rather than rock the boat.

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    1. I believe Mosko is right. We are partly to blame, anyway. People don’t know what they don’t know. Someone has to tell ’em and the media has not. The media sells ads and propaganda NOT information. Ergo, the population is ignorant. And, because of modcons, TV, drugs and other ‘comforts’, they are unmotivated to act even if they DID know!

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  7. Public makes its decisions based on what information is provided to them, the mainstream media provides mostly misinformation and lies. However, none of the mainstream party’s Liberal, NDP, or even the Greens will put fourth a set a of accountability or transparency rules and agree to live by them, they don’t want any accountability they simply like to use those words during campaign. They have cleverly removed themselves from being held responsible by creating the Legislative Assembly Privilege Act 1996

    http://www.bclaws.ca/Recon/document/ID/freeside/00_96259_01

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  8. Trust the mining companies??? Nothing could be further from the truth and never attainable. Make as much money as possible, screw the environment because they will never live there, hire people from outside of Canada, donate to BC liberals and BUY favours… nuff said

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