After the initial shock in B.C.’s community of environmentally-conscious people, when the Mt. Polley tailings pond dam broke and we went into the engineering record books for mine failures, we reacted with anger.
Perching this toxic waste site above the home to a vast amount of anadromous salmon, resident trout, etc. and wildlife was taking an enormous risk and points clearly to governments’ poor judgment. And, don’t forget, this is the same provincial government that wanted to develop New Prosperity Mine in the West Chilcotin and drain Fish Lake to create another toxic tailings pond.
How did Mt. Polley happen? We looked to governments and professional geotechnical engineers to design and monitor not only mining structures like tailing ponds, but also all the dams of note in this province? Furthermore, in a first world country like Canada, we should be able to assume that a regulatory government and their engineers will be reviewing and thereby regulating the private mining industry to ensure safeguards are in place.
One observation can be made here already, that without a large geophysical shock or sabotage, which has gone unrecorded, somebody screwed up at the company level. But further to that, in this modern world of technology, instruments should have been placed in and round the dam that would have recorded seepage, piping, geophysical land shifts and or, pressures changes in the phreatic line throughout the dam, or any other abnormalities developing which would have threatened the structural integrity of this dam to hold back the tailing waste. After all, if B.C. Hydro can monitor their dams, 24 hours a day, throughout the province, why not the mining industry?
It clearly appears that although Minister Bill Bennett says that he will resign if we find through these investigations that his ministry is at fault, should the public be asked to wait? Or should he clear the bridge from his presence, at least for now? Many in this province are saying that as government did not appear to have comprehensive policies and procedures in place and therefore allowed a “govern thyself” atmosphere to prevail, he should resign now.