Canadian, American groups call on B.C. to end underwater storage of mine tailings – by Gordon Hoekstra (Vancouver Sun – April 28, 2015)

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Mines minister says that is not going happen in the province, or likely anywhere in Canada

Dozens of Canadian and American environmental groups, First Nations and businesses, as well as scientists and individuals, have called on the B.C. government to end the use of storing mine waste under water and behind earth-and-rock dams.

But Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said that is not going to happen in British Columbia. “I don’t think that’s in the cards for B.C. — or any other province in Canada — to adopt a policy where all you can use to manage tailings is dry-stack tailings,” Bennett said in an interview.

The demand from the U.S. and Canadian groups — sent in a letter Tuesday to Bennett and B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak — came as a result of Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley tailings dam failure last summer.

The dam collapse released millions of cubic metres of water and tailings — finely-ground rock waste containing potentially toxic metals — into the Quesnel Lake watershed in the B.C. Interior.

The groups say their demand is based on a recommendation from the B.C. government-appointed expert panel to move away from the conventional method of storing tailings underwater behind earth dams.

Tasked with investigating the Mount Polley failure, the panel suggested a method called dry stacking, where the water is pressed from the tailings, which are then compacted and stacked. The panel also suggested backfilling underground mines and using old mine pits to store waste.

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