The official statements are now beginning to appear re Mt Polley. Here are two. First from the Mining Association of Canada.
OTTAWA, Aug. 8, 2014 /CNW/ – On August 4, a tailings breach occurred at the Mount Polley mine in British Columbia, owned and operated by Imperial Metals. This incident is an unfortunate and significant issue that is being taken very seriously by the company, the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) and all stakeholders involved.
Imperial Metals has apologized to the public for the breach of its tailings pond. Imperial has recognized and publicly asserted its responsibility to remedy the situation, and is working to stop the problem, get to the root of why it happened, mitigate the effects and prevent future failures. The company is cooperating fully with communities, and local and provincial authorities. Fortunately, the incident did not result in injuries, and the tailings from the Mount Polley mine are non-acid generating, but the company does recognize there has been a significant environmental impact that will have to be addressed. Preliminary water tests released on August 7 show that the water remains within drinking-quality guidelines and that impact to aquatic life and fish is not expected. Further testing is being undertaken by the provincial government.
“The mining industry in Canada operates on the basis of public confidence in sound public policy, effective regulation and responsible management practices by companies. The confidence of the public in what we do and how we do it is essential. Incidents such as this are very rare, but it is the goal of MAC members that they never occur, and we have been working hard for many years to achieve this goal. Clearly, we still have work to do,” stated Pierre Gratton, MAC’s President and CEO.
Imperial Metals has been a member of MAC for the past two years and is in the early stages of implementing the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiative, a major component of which includes commitments to ensure the safe operation and management of tailings. In fact, one of the main drivers behind the development of TSM in the late 1990s was to prevent incidents such as this. Through MAC’s tailings guides, initially published in 1998 and considered the global standard for tailings management, and through TSM, the industry has made steady improvement in this area.
The last similar event occurred at a closed site in 1991 and did not have any off-site impact. Every day, there are more than 200 mines operating in Canada, and MAC members have invested great effort in building a track record of the safe management of tailings facilities over recent decades. MAC and its members, through MAC’s Tailings Working Group, comprising many of the best professionals in this field, will review this incident to assess what can be learned and implemented to further ensure these incidents do not occur.
The second is from Knight Piesold:
VANCOUVER, Aug. 8, 2014 /CNW/ – The breach of the tailings storage facility at Mount Polley is an extremely unfortunate incident and Knight Piésold Ltd. shares the concerns with respect to the effects to local communities, First Nations and the environment.
Going forward there will be a comprehensive examination of this incident and there will be questions about the engineering and design of the tailings storage facility. As the former Engineer of Record of the tailings storage facility at Mount Polley, we feel it appropriate to provide some clarity and transparency of the role of Knight Piésold Ltd.
Knight Piésold Ltd. informed Imperial Metals that we would not continue as the Engineer of Record for the Mount Polley Mine on February 10, 2011, and subsequently ceased to perform that role. During the time we acted as Engineer of Record, the tailings storage facility at Mount Polley operated safely and as it was designed. A third party Review Panel provided independent review of the tailings impoundment design during initial construction and permitting during 1995 to 1997. In 2006, while we were Engineer of Record, an Independent Third Party Dam Safety Review by AMEC Earth and Environmental confirmed that the three embankments were well-designed and well-constructed entities from a dam safety perspective.
Since February 10, 2011, Knight Piésold Ltd. has not had any responsibility or knowledge of any aspects of the design, modifications or performance monitoring of the tailings storage facility at Mount Polley. The original engineering done by Knight Piésold Ltd. accommodated a significantly lower water volume than the tailings storage facility reportedly held at the time of the breach. Significant engineering and design changes were made subsequent to our involvement, such that the tailings storage facility can no longer be considered a Knight Piésold Ltd. design.
Upon completing all assignments as the Engineer of Record in 2010, Knight Piésold Ltd. wrote to Mount Polley Mining Corporation and to the Government of British Columbia’s Chief Inspector of Mines and stated that “the embankments and the overall tailings impoundment are getting large and it is extremely important that they be monitored, constructed and operated properly to prevent problems in the future.” A formal handover of design, construction and monitoring responsibilities was conducted on March 8, 2011when AMEC Earth and Environmental was acknowledged as the new Engineer of Record for all future work at the Mount Polley tailings storage facility.
Knight Piésold Ltd. is not familiar with, and therefore cannot comment on, the details of the incident, or on the design, construction, operations, water management practices or any other aspects of the Mount Polley tailings storage facility.
Lest you fall for the story that such failures are very rare, read my paper at this link where I write about the three tailings failures in 2012. At the Tailings and Mine Waste conference in October I present a paper on the three tailings failures in 2013. To date in 2014 we have had two tailings failures, Mt Polley and Duke Energy. So maybe three a year is a standard?