Even after the Mt. Polley disaster, B.C. dams are still being built without approval: activist

Click to play video: 'Earthen Dam Scandal'
Earthen Dam Scandal
The provincial government admits it botched the approval of dozens of earthen dams built by oil and gas companies – Nov 24, 2017

When a tailings pond breached at the Mount Polley mine in 2014, it sent millions of cubic metres of waste flowing out into Polley Lake, Quesnel Lake and Hazeltine Lake.

The disaster affected 300 homes after it contaminated the water so badly that a “complete water ban” was issued for residents living near Likely, B.C.

Coverage of the Mount Polley mine disaster on

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Three years later, the disaster hasn’t resulted in any provincial charges. And dams are, apparently, being approved with little oversight.

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That’s according to Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

He’s been investigating dams that have been built by oil and gas companies in B.C.’s Peace region. And he’s shocked at what he found.

“There didn’t appear to be any authorizations that had been given to the companies before they built,” he told Global News.

Some of these dams are enormous — one of them is 23 metres high, about the height of Vancouver’s Seaforth Armoury on Burrard Street.

The Oil and Gas Commission is one of the regulators that’s supposed to oversee these dams.

CEO Ken Paulson admitted to Global News that “yes, there was an oversight that occurred.”

But he also said there was never any “danger to health and safety, or the environment.”

READ MORE: Mount Polley tailings pond spill won’t result in provincial charges

Much of this happened at a time when the former BC Liberal government was trying to establish an LNG industry in the province.

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“What we see was a government that was hell-bent on ensuring that LNG had the easiest path forward in this province,” said Sonia Furstenau, a B.C. Green Party MLA.

For its part, the current government said the construction of dams without certain approvals is a “huge concern.”

But B.C. Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resourcse Minister Michelle Mungall was light on any details of how the government planned to tackle it.

“We’re working across ministries, we’re working with the Oil and Gas Commission to address this issue,” she said.

“It’s an issue that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”

  • Video report by Paul Johnson

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