VICTORIA – Government must ask its expert review panel to assess and sign off on Imperial Metal’s latest cleanup plan, say the New Democrats.
“While we’re pleased that Imperial Metals is taking steps to repair the tailings dam and get its crews back to work, there are still many open questions around the role that government inspections and oversight played in the August 4 tailings dam failure,” said New Democrat spokesperson for mining Norm Macdonald. “It only makes sense to ask a third party, perhaps the three engineers conducting the Polley disaster review, to decide if the repair plan is adequate.
“To be clear, we want the mine to be reopened as soon as it is safe to do so, but until we know who in the government was responsible for the failure in oversight, the same people can’t give the go-ahead for work to continue,” said Macdonald. “The sooner government releases key documents and tells the public what caused the failure, the sooner the mine can get back into operation.”
The tailings pond near Likely breached in August, spilling approximately 25 million cubic metres of tailings and effluent into nearby waterways. The full impact of the spill is still not known, nor is it known when the environmental cleanup will be complete.
Partly due to Liberal government cutbacks, inspections in mines in B.C. have been irregular. At one point, the province was left with just one geotechnical engineer and emails released through freedom of information requests showed that staff within the environment ministry had raised warnings that low staffing levels were leading to increased risks, citing tailings pond inspections as a particular area of concern.
“None of this is part of the government’s internal investigation and it should be,” said Macdonald. “The only way to restore confidence in mining in this province is to fully investigate everyone who had a hand in how mining was overseen, right up to the chief inspector of mines.”