Mines ministry fully endorses independent panel’s recommendations

Energy and Mines to implement recommendations of the independent panel that investigated the Mount Polley tailings storage failure.

  • Feb. 11, 2015 2:00 p.m.

B.C.’s Minister of Energy and Mines provided an update on the actions that government is taking to implement the recommendations of the independent panel that investigated the Mount Polley tailings storage facility failure, Wednesday.

“Government is committed to implementing all of the panel’s recommendations,” Minister Bill Bennett said in a press release.

The Chief Inspector of Mines has now sent a letter requiring mines to provide information by June 30, 2015 that confirms whether foundation materials similar to those at Mount Polley exist below any of their dams and if so, whether sufficient testing has been completed and if the dams have been designed to account for those conditions.

Given the panel’s finding that the dominant contribution to the failure resides in the original design and that subsurface investigations during the design process were not sufficient to detect the unstable materials underneath the dam or understand their nature, government supports the recommendation that the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists develop guidelines to support improved site investigations when designing TSFs, the government stated.

Government has also confirmed that independent tailings dam review boards will be mandatory for operating mines and supports the adoption of industry best practices such as the “Towards Sustainable Mining” program.

In the weeks ahead, government will initiate a code review to determine how to best implement the panel’s recommendations regarding best available technology and practices, additional permit application requirements and safety standards that are tailored to British Columbia.

The panel recommended the adoption of best available technology, including filtered tailings (dry stack) technology where appropriate. The panel also noted that there are circumstances where other technologies are more appropriate due to the need to neutralize chemicals in the tailings or challenges with dewatering the tailings.

The code review will include a consultation process to determine how to implement best available technology and practices in British Columbia.