August 28, 2018 9:52 pm
Updated: August 29, 2018 2:30 pm

4 years after Mt. Polley, B.C. could see 2 more tailings dam failures in the next decade

A new report says B.C.'s Mount Polley mining disaster could happen again because systemic problems within the industry aren't being addressed. Ted Chernecki reports.

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It’s been four years since the Mount Polley dam broke, sending 24-million cubic metres of water and mine tailings into Polley Lake down Hazeltine Creek and into Quesnel Lake.

The author of a paper titled “Chronicles of a Disaster Foretold” believes disasters similar to the one that occurred at the pond at the Imperial Metals Corp’s mine could happen again.

“Just in B.C. itself, there would in all likelihood be two more tailing stem collapses in the next decade and probably six in the next 30 years,” report author Judith Marshall with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said.

Extended: Aerials of Mount Polley Mine disaster

She attributes that to geologists who studied a similar tailings collapse in Mariana, Brazil, that killed at least 17 people and was an even bigger environmental disaster than Mount Polley.

The problem, Marshall says, is systemic in that governments bow too quickly to mining companies.

“Mining companies have not only succeeded in a series of mechanisms to push for this self-regulation and downplay the role of governments, they absolutely dominate the narrative about mining.”

Globalnews.ca coverage of Mt. Polley disaster


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The report notes that after the Mount Polley collapse, Imperial Metals president Brian Kynoch was quoted as saying, “If you asked me two weeks ago if this could have happened, I would have said it couldn’t.”

Marshall argues the company should’ve known that a breach was likely, given a 2010 inspection report and warnings from employees.

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

Within a year of the collapse, Imperial Metals had spent at least $70 million in cleanup costs.

Sullivan said that at the time of the disaster, the Opposition BC NDP were critical of how things were handled, but “now that they’re in power, they seem to be a good deal more reticent to really tackle these problems.”

Global News reached out to the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Natural Resources, but has yet to receive a response.

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