Several investigations are now underway into the Mount Polley Mine tailings breach, the Ministry of Energy and Mines said Wednesday.
An independent engineering inquiry being led by a panel of three geotechnical experts will investigate the cause of the failure, including geotechnical standards, design of the dam, maintenance, regulations, inspections regimes and other matters the panel deems appropriate.
“The panel has the ability to compel evidence and will provide recommendations through a final report by January 31, 2015,” a ministry spokesperson told the Tribune.
The panel’s recommendations will be received by the Province and the Soda Creek Indian Band and Williams Lake Indian Band at the same time and then shared with the public.
Secondly, the Conservation Officer Service, as an independent law enforcement body, is conducting its own investigation with the authority to forward any recommendations for charges if warranted directly to the provincial Crown Counsel.
Imperial Metals vice-president Steve Robertson said the company will not be commenting on the ongoing outside investigations until they are completed, and confirmed that the company is also doing its own investigation.
After the breach, the chief inspector of mines issued an order to all mining companies to conduct a Dam Safety Inspection for every tailings storage facility at a permitted mine by Dec. 1, 2014.
Under the order, those inspections must be reviewed by an independent, qualified, third-party, professional engineer from a firm not associated with the tailings facility. All information obtained under this order will be provided to First Nations and made public.
Once all the facts have been gathered, there will be a full and transparent release of all relevant information, the ministry said.
Historically Mount Polley has received 16 geotechnical inspections since 1995, the ministry said.
Seven of those inspections took place before the mine went into care and maintenance in 2001 and nine of them took place after it re-opened in 2005. The last geotechnical inspection took place in September 2013 and resulted in no orders related to the tailings storage facility. Since 2001, there have been a total of 125 inspections at Mount Polley. This includes geotechnical inspections as well as health/safety, reclamation and electrical.
All information that has been released to date can be found here: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/eemp/incidents/2014/mount-polley/.