Premier undermining public trust with approach to mine disaster

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VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark is undermining public trust in resource development in B.C. with her uninformed and reckless approach to the Mount Polley tailings pond failure, say B.C.’s New Democrats.

“Premier Clark’s visit to Likely yesterday raised more new questions than it answered,” said New Democrat energy and mines spokesperson Norm Macdonald. “She made pronouncements about how the disaster cleanup will be paid for that simply don’t add up, and dodged the question of ensuring there is a truly independent investigation.”

The premier claimed Imperial Metals’ reclamation bond could pay for the cleanup costs, but four full days after the disaster she wasn’t able to provide any facts about how much was being held in bond for tailings cleanup or when it would be used.

“The premier also indicated taxpayers could be on the hook for the cost of cleanup, but didn’t offer any clear information about what that might mean,” said Macdonald. “Meanwhile her mines minister is telling people the company will be the ones to pay. Which is it?”

According to media reports, a financial analyst with BMO Nesbitt Burns has indicated the company could be facing $200 million in legal and other costs. “How much of that is the cost of cleanup, and how much of that cleanup cost will fall to taxpayers?” asked Macdonald.

New Democrat environment spokesperson Spencer Chandra Herbert said the premier’s plan to use conservation officers to investigate the tailings pond failure makes no sense.

“This is an unprecedented catastrophe and the public is rightly concerned about risks to the province’s other tailings ponds. Anything other than an independent investigation suggests the premier is hiding from the full truth when nothing else will be acceptable,” said Chandra Herbert.

While conservation officers do a great job of environmental stewardship, they have little to no experience investigating the geotechnical complexities of large scale mining disasters or the actions of government’s mines safety staff and procedures.

New Democrat leader John Horgan was at the disaster site on Wednesday and Thursday calling for a fully independent inquiry and for the B.C. Liberals to the release all records and reports on the development, monitoring, and enforcement of the tailings pond and dam within the week.

“Premier Clark’s failure to deal openly and transparently with this tailings dam failure will hurt not only mining and other resource industries that drive our economy, but also the workers and communities who rely on them,” said Macdonald.