Two investigations set up in wake of Mount Polley Mine incident

August 18, 2014

The British Columbia government is setting up two separate reviews of the tailings pond failure at the Mount Polley Mine in early August.

Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett said the first review by three independent experts will investigate the failure of the tailings dam at the Mount Polley Mine while the second review will require all mines in British Columbia that have tailings dams to have independent experts conduct a review of their facilities and submit them to the government.

The first review will be completed and submitted to the government and the Soda Creek and Williams Lake Indian bands by Jan. 31, 2015, and the recommendations will be implemented by the government "where needed," Bennett promised.

The minister said the reviews were necessary to restore public confidence in the mining industry, CBCNews reported.

"We have a responsibility, as the jurisdiction where this failure took place, to find out exactly why it happened, ensure it never happens again and take a leadership role internationally in learning from this serious incident," Bennett said.

The three experts appointed to review the dam failure are:
• Norbert Morgenstern, an adviser to consulting engineers.
• Steven Vick, a geotechnical engineer from Colorado.
• Dirk Van Zyl, a professor at the University of British Columbia's Normal B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering.

Zyl called the the failure of the tailings facility at Mount Polley " a dark day for the mining industry not only here in British Columbia, but worldwide."

"It’s extremely important for us to understand how this breach happened, and why, so that we can move forward with the best possible practices in ongoing and future mining operations," he said.

Bennett said the Soda Creek and Williams Lake Indians Bands were consulted on the terms of reference for the review.

The second review is being led by B.C.'s chief inspector of mines, who has ordered all mining companies to conduct a dam safety inspection of every tailings pond in the province by Dec. 1, 2014. Those inspections will be reviewed by an independent professional engineer and made public.

There are currently 98 permitted tailings ponds at 60 operating and closed metal and coal mines in British Columbia.
 

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