Tailings pond at Mount Polley Mine near Likely on Aug. 4

Outside investigation promised for Mount Polley

"There has to be some independent oversight and insight into that process," Mines Minister Bill Bennett says

Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines, expects to announce this week how the province will handle the inquiry into the Mount Polley tailings spill, and how the government will deal with tailings ponds throughout the province.

Bennett said he agrees with calls for an independent investigation into the tailings pond dam failure.

“There has to be some independent oversight and insight into that process,” Bennett told CKNW radio.

NDP energy and mines critic Norm Macdonald says an inquiry is definitely in order, but it should be independent of the government. Macdonald says the B.C. Liberal government bears responsibility for the spill because they have cut the number of people who do inspections significantly.

“Inspections at mines have fallen by 50 per cent since 2001,” Macdonald said.

Bennett said the reduction in inspections relates to gravel pits, aggregate producers and placer mines, which process surface gravel for minerals. Annual geotechnical inspections of large mines such as Mount Polley have not been reduced, he said.

Mine inspectors also visited Mount Polley in May of this year after the tailings pond exceeded its allowable water level during spring runoff. Bennett said the pond was restored to the permitted level, and it is the only such report on record for the mine.

Brian Kynoch, president of mine owner Imperial Metals, said the pond level was 2.5 metres below the top of the dam and within the permitted operating level when the breach occurred Aug. 4.

Ministry of Environment records show the mine has had an effluent permit since 1997, and has operated since startup with a water surplus due to precipitation. In 2009 the company applied to amend the permit to allow discharge of up to 1.4 million cubic meters of water a year to discharge dam seepage effluent into Hazeltine Creek.

That permit was approved in 2012 after an independent report was commissioned to examine water quality impacts from sediment and contaminants, and measures needed to control them.

With the mine and its tailings facilities expanding and an exhausted pit being converted to underground mining, Mount Polley applied for another amendment to discharge up to three million cubic meters of treated water to Polley Lake.

That permit amendment was being considered at the time of the tailings dam breach.

 

Just Posted

Parksville council members vote themselves a hike in pay

Mayor goes from $40.9K to $52.5K and councillors from $16.9K to $30K

Multi-use village green space proposed for Qualicum Beach

Early development plans see a gathering space at the old bus garage site

UPDATE: City of Parksville buys 222 Corfield site

With the purchase, the city will not facilitate cold-weather shelter on property

Thirty trees destroyed in Parksville’s Cedar Ridge Estates

Damage estimated at $30K; city says vandals intended to permanently ruin the trees

600 new campsites coming to provincial parks and recreation sites across B.C.

Tourism Minister announced half of the new spots to 13 most popular provincial parks

So, do you know ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’?

Ontario man searching for fellow he travelled with in Europe 50 years ago

Municipalities protest after B.C. declares marijuana growing ‘farm use’

UBCM president seeks answers in letter to John Horgan government

CMHC defends mortgage stress test changes amid calls for loosening rules

Uninsured borrowers must now show they could service their mortgage if rates rose two per cent

B.C. woman left ‘black and blue’ after being pushed off 40-foot cliff at lake

West Shore RCMP looking for witnesses as investigation continues

Thunderstorms to bring heavy rain, risk of flash floods in the southern Interior

Ten to 30 millimetres of rain to fall over the early weekend

RCMP probe if teen was intentionally hit with ski pole by mystery skier on B.C. mountain

The incident happened on March 20 on Grouse Mountain. Police are urging witnesses to come forward

Unbe-leaf-able: Agassiz man finds more than 200 four-leaf clovers in a month

Walt Hardinge has found more than 219 four-or-more leaf clovers this spring alone

Crews fight fire with fire to keep blaze from northern Alberta town

The wildfire now covers some 920 square kilometres

Most Read