VICTORIA – The B.C. Liberal government’s admission that the mining ministry has been underfunded shows they are bracing for a scathing report this week on the Mount Polley tailings dam failure, said New Democrat leader John Horgan.
“You just can’t take Christy Clark at her word. Announcing this week that the government will increase funding to the Ministry of Energy and Mines is simply an admission that years of cuts to inspection and enforcement have hurt not only public safety but industrial development in B.C.,” said Horgan.
“The premier is trying to get out ahead of this damaging report because it was her government that made deep cuts to inspections and monitoring in the first place. The failure of the Mount Polley tailings dam shocked British Columbians, created an environmental disaster and undermined public confidence in our mining industry and the communities and families who depend on mining jobs.” said Horgan.
Horgan said that New Democrats will be looking to the expert panel report due out this week for answers on several key questions including:
- To what extent did Ministry of Energy and Mines staffing cuts and its 50 per cent reduction in mines inspections contribute to the dam failure on Aug. 4, 2014?
- To what extent did the absence of geotechnical inspections at Mount Polley in 2009 through 2011 contribute to the dam failure?
- Did the Ministry of Energy and Mines take appropriate steps after Imperial Metals’ former engineer of record, Knight Piesold Ltd informed the ministry that “the embankments and the overall tailings impoundment are getting large and it is extremely important that they be monitored, constructed and operated properly to prevent problems in the future”?
- Did the Ministry of Energy and Mines rely too heavily on assurances from Imperial Metals’ engineers about the safety and integrity of the Mount Polly dam?
“We can only hope the Mount Polley report gets to the bottom of how much Liberal cuts to inspections and staffing in this industry contributed to the tailings dam failure,” said spokesperson for interior economic development Katrine Conroy.
“The Liberal government has done more harm than good to B.C.’s mining industry, from cuts leading to disasters to failing on the promise to open eight mines and expand nine by 2015,” said Conroy. “All this while the premier spent all her time focussing on LNG, which so far has produced little but a string of broken promises.”