Thursday, August 4, 2016

2nd Anniversary of Mt Polley Incident

Courtesy of BC's Energy/Mines Minister - Hon. Bill Bennett:

“Today marks two years since the tailings storage facility (TSF) dam at the Mount Polley Mine failed – that disaster was unprecedented in British Columbia, so we knew our government needed to take strong action. We cannot allow something like that to ever happen again in our province.

“Within two weeks, we appointed an independent expert engineering panel, some of the best experts in the field, to find out what went wrong, and more importantly, learn how we could strengthen the mining code to prevent this kind of failure from occurring again.

“What the expert panel found was that the dam failed because the strength and location of a layer of clay underneath the dam was not taken into account in its original design in the 1990s.

“The panel made seven recommendations to prevent such incidents in the future. Following two years of dedicated work focused on emphasizing protection of the public, workers and the environment, we have now implemented changes to the British Columbia mining code that address all seven recommendations.

“These changes put B.C. at the forefront of global standards for the safety of TSFs at mines operating in this province, and, in keeping with the independent expert engineering panel's recommendations, now include design standards for TSFs.

“Along with the new site characterization guidelines from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, these updates to the mining code mean that British Columbians can have confidence that our standards for tailings storage facilities are as good as exists anywhere in the world.

“Through these revisions to the mining code, government has addressed 20 of the 26 combined recommendations from the independent expert panel and the chief inspector of mines reports. Work to address the remaining chief inspector of mines recommendations will be complete by summer of 2017 and the remaining 17 recommendations from the Office of the Auditor General’s report, also accepted by government, are expected to be addressed by the end of 2017.

“Not only have we strengthened the mining code, we’ve also strengthened government’s regulatory oversight of the mining industry with changes to the Mines Act, giving the Ministry of Energy and Mines additional compliance and enforcement tools, which include administrative monetary penalties. And in the interest of transparency, we’ve implemented a new web-based records system that provides easier access to permit information, inspection reports and other details about mines in British Columbia.

“But that’s not all that we’ve been working on. For the past two years, the Province has been working closely with First Nations, local governments, mine labour unions and Mount Polley Mining Corporation on environmental mitigation and remediation at the Mount Polley mine site.

“We have overseen all environmental remediation work such as completely protecting the Hazeltine Creek channel against erosion and ensuring water quality in Quesnel Lake meets all provincial guidelines. We will continue to oversee the further remediation and restoration of Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek, Edney Creek and Quesnel Lake. To date, the company has spent almost $70 million on the restoration.

“Throughout the response to Mount Polley and the code review process, government and Mount Polley Mining Corporation have held hundreds of meetings with First Nations, community, mine labour unions and industry.

“A total of six First Nations were selected to participate in the work of the code review. Two participated on the main code review committee and four are participating in the work of the two sub-committees. This is the first time that First Nations have actively participated in a process such as this.

“To date, more than 20 community meetings have been held for residents of Likely, Williams Lake, and members of the Soda Creek Indian Band (Xats’ull First Nation) and Williams Lake Indian Band.

“Remediation and restoration efforts have seen more than 30,000 trees and shrubs planted, along with over 16 hectares of grass planted in the Hazeltine Creek corridor. Mammal-denning habitats and avian perches have also been put in place. With collaboration, we have slowly begun to restore this beautiful area of the province.

“All British Columbians were shaken by the Mount Polley tailings dam failure. It was unprecedented for our province, but it did happen. We’ve taken a leadership position and have done all we can to ensure such a failure can never happen in B.C. again.”

To view two backgrounders regarding the mining code review, visit:

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