TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – A group of 15 nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) on Tuesday urged the British Columbia government to implement firmer legislation regarding how mines dispose of waste in the province.
While British Columbia was busy with deliberations over the province's mining code, an international coalition published a study entitled ‘Post-Mount Polley: Tailings Dam Safety in British Columbia’, which revealed that four significant mine projects in the Alaska/British Columbia transboundary region failed to implement the recommendations of the Mount Polley expert panel, increasing the risk of similar mine waste containment disasters.
The August 2014 Mount Polley mine disaster, considered the worst mine disaster in Canadian history, released more than 25-million cubic metres of mine waste into the Fraser River watershed.
According to the NGO-sponsored study, authored by the director of the Centre for Science in Public Participation Dr Dave Chambers, the KSM, Galore Creek, Red Chris, and Schaft Creek mines would require mine waste dams two to six times higher than the failed Mount Polley dam, and containing 7 to 27 times the waste volume.
The NGO report stressed that the waste from these four mines would be more toxic than that of the Mount Polley mine. The provincial expert panel that investigated the cause of the Mount Polley disaster had determined that ‘wet’ mine waste disposal, where mine waste was stored with water, should not be used after mine closure to prevent a catastrophic failure. According to the report, these mines all used wet disposal, and a riskier style of tailings dam construction.
“Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, but it shouldn’t take an Einstein to figure out that mines using Mount Polley’s mine waste disposal methods risk future Mount Polley-scale mine waste disasters,” Rivers Without Borders representative Chris Zimmer stated in a press release.
The NGOs stated that should these mines fail, the Unuk, Stikine, and Nass watersheds would be polluted by mine waste, jeopardising the billion-dollar fishing industry that Alaskans and Canadians alike relied on for their livelihood.
The NGOs pressured British Columbia Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett to implement all of the findings of the Mount Polley investigation, which according to them had to date not happened. According to the Mount Polley expert panel, an estimated two tailings dams were expected to fail every ten years if changes were not made.
“When he declared in 2014 that one Mount Polley disaster is one too many, the Minister promised to implement the recommendations of the expert panel that investigated the failure. Two years later it’s time for him to make good on his promise and put these recommendations into policy and practice,” stated MiningWatch Canada’s Ugo LaPointe.