Reality Check: Liberals ignoring the facts when it comes to Mount Polley disaster

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VICTORIA- Last week Mines Minister Bill Bennett seized on a single finding of the expert panel report on the failure of the Mount Polley Tailings Dam to explain away the B.C. Liberal government’s responsibility for the significant damage to the environment and the reputation of the mining industry. According to Bennett, a flaw in the original design of the dam was “a spectacularly horrible failure and it is one of a kind.”mount-polley-mine-tailings-pond-dam-failure

You just can’t take the B.C. Liberals at their word anymore. Minister Bennett conveniently ignored the expert panel’s condemnation of government’s oversight of the mine over the past decade. Even the CEO Imperial Metals has said they only did what was approved by the B.C. government.

The panel’s criticisms include:

  • Government regulators repeatedly approved the raising of the tailings dam incrementally with little long-term planning or execution;
  • Government regulators did not require Imperial Metals to establish a well-developed tailings beach. This oversight “…violated the fundamental premise of the design as a tailings dam, not a water storage dam.”;
  • Government’s decision to allow Imperial Metals to significantly increase the storage of water in the Mount Polley tailings storage facility exacerbated the size of the breach and the environmental impact of the spill;
  • Government approved the repeated raising of the dam, in large measure, to address rising water levels. In the view of the panel “something had to give, and the result was over steepened dam slopes, deferred buttressing, and the seemingly ad hoc nature of dam expansion that so often ended up constructing something different from what had originally been designed.”;
  • Government repeatedly failed to ensure that Imperial Metals had an adequate supply of material for building and reinforcing the dam. According to the expert panel, “…obtaining the necessary mine waste had been hard enough under ordinary circumstances. Were instruments to warn of a rapidly developing failure, there would have been no way to respond in time to avert it.”
  • Government regulators and Imperial Metals recognized the need to improve dam strength just eight days before the breach as part of the Stage 10 amendments to the original permit. In the view of the expert panel, this was “…the final, fateful instance of too little, too late.”

Quote from Norm Macdonald, New Democrat spokesperson on mines:

“You can’t take Minister Bennett at his word anymore. He is ignoring the facts when it comes to the many underlying reasons the expert panel identified for the Mount Polley dam failure, simply to deflect any responsibility for his government’s mismanagement of the mining industry.”