Empire Editorial: Mining disasters must end with Mount Polley (Juneau Empire – February 12, 2015)



That’s how many tailings dams holding back mine waste are expected to fail every decade in British Columbia.


That’s the number of proposed mines and sites under advanced exploration in British Columbia right now.

Four thousand.

That’s how many Olympic-sized pools worth of toxic sludge spilled out of the retention basin at the Mount Polley Mine on Aug. 4, 2014.

If you’re not too concerned about these numbers, you should be. If you’ve glazed over news reports about the recent transboundary mining efforts across the border from Southeast Alaska, it’s time to sit up and pay attention. There are big plans afoot — some with proposals eclipsing the Hoover Dam — that have the potential to decimate our way of life.

On Jan. 30 an independent review panel, established by British Columbia’s government through the Ministry of Energy and Mines with support from the T’exelc and Xat’sull First Nations, found that design flaws were to blame for British Columbia’s Mount Polley Mine tailings dam breach.

The panel found the dam’s design didn’t fully account for environmental factors like glacial geology, it suffered from “overtopping” and internal erosion of the earthen walls.

In other words, if the dam wasn’t destined to fail how it did, there were multiple other factors that would have eventually caused the same result.

In the report, the panel “firmly reject(ed) any notion that business as usual can continue.” Instead, as noted in a Feb. 6 Empire article, the group recommended “B.C.’s mines change their tailings facilities so water and tailings are maintained separately, with water kept in a conventional water dam.”

“Simply put, dam failures are reduced by reducing the number of dams that can fail,” the report stated.

For the rest of this editorial, click here: http://juneauempire.com/opinion/2015-02-12/empire-editorial-mining-disasters-must-end-mount-polley