Mount Polley tailings spill: What 5 million cubic metres looks like

The disastrous breach of a tailings pond in B.C.’s Cariboo region yesterday sent five million cubic metres of toxic mining waste roaring into nearby waterways.

How big is five million cubic metres? Well, it’s equivalent to 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, but to be honest we found it hard to visualize 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

So we used Google Earth to build a  five million-cubic-metre rectangle near Vancouver’s downtown, just next door to B.C. Place – as you can see, it would easily dwarf any existing structure.

If Google Earth works in your browser, you can see a three-dimensional visualization here.

What if the spill spread over a flat area? Here’s what five million cubic metres looks like, spread out over Vancouver half a metre deep:

Story continues below advertisement

Sponsored content