Search warrant exectued at Mount Polley Mine

February 4, 2015

Police in British Columbia executed search warrants at the Mount Polley Mine on Feb. 3 on behalf of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, one of the agencies still investigating the tailings dam disaster.

At the same time that Imperial Metals, the owner of the mine, was marking the start of operations at its new Red Chris mine in northern B.C., police arrived at the Mount Polley mine site, 100 km northeast of Williams Lake, to collect evidence for the conservation service. The service is an independent law-enforcement body that can recommend charges when warranted to provincial Crown Counsel, The Globe and Mail reported.

Steve Robertson, vice-president of corporate affairs for Imperial Metals, said the search for documents at the mine site, almost six months after the catastrophic dam failure, was not surprising “Nothing too extreme going on there, it’s just the execution of a warrant by the Conservation Service,” he said. “We didn’t know when it was coming, but we were certainly expecting it to happen.”

He said the mine officials are fully co-operating with police, and called it a “positive step in our eyes” because it advances one of the two outstanding investigations.

“This is a great opportunity for us to move forward,” he said. “The panel report that came out [last week] found there was a single cause for the failure, a design flaw. We look forward to all these investigations being completed and we expect there will be similar results.”

Operations at the Imperial Metals’ Red Chris mine began Tuesday without the usual ribbon-cutting that a new mine typically attracts.

The Red Chris mine, 804 km south of Dease Lake in northwestern British Columbia, received an interim permit to begin processing copper and gold ore and to use its tailings pond this week, just days after a report was released on the dam failure at the company’s Mount Polley tailings facility last August.

An expert engineering panel determined the breach at the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond was the result of a failure of the foundation of the embankment and recommended some major changes for the mining industry in British Columbia (ME, Feb. 2, 2015).

Even as the province looks at a new regulatory environment with stricter safety standards for its mines, the chief inspector of mines issued the preliminary permit required to commission the Red Chris project – providing a cash flow that Imperial Metals needs as the company’s cleanup costs mount and efforts to restart operations at Mount Polley are stalled.

The company expects Red Chris to be at full production, with 30 kt (33,000 st) of material flowing into the tailings pond, by May. At that time, it will need to apply for a full permit once it has proved the tailings pond facility – and the dam – is performing as promised.

Meanwhile, members of the Soda Creek Band, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and First Nations Summit announced their support of the recommendations proposed by the panel that reviewed the Mount Polley incident.



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